South Melbourne FC won through to the 2015 Dockerty Cup final thanks to a thrilling come from behind derby victory over Heidelberg United at Jack Edwards Reserve on Wednesday night.
After conceding a goal in the first half, a late Nick Epifano brace saw South triumph 2-1 against their old rivals and send the strong contingent of travelling supporters into raptures at the final whistle.
The win was South’s first over Heidelberg this season and sends the blue and white into their first Dockerty Cup final since Frank Arok’s South Melbourne side played in the 1995 edition and defeated the Melbourne Knights 3-1 at Olympic Park on Sunday 1 October 1995.
South started the match well and created chances from the outset. Milos Lujic missed a glorious opportunity to score just after the half hour when he got on the end of Tim Mala’s perfect cross but headed the ball over Griffin McMaster’s crossbar.
Heidelberg capitalised by opening the scoring a few minutes later. Kaine Sheppard found the back of the net, like he did when the two teams met at the Olympic Village earlier this year.
Chris Taylor’s men continued to create chances after the restart. Lujic and Jake Barker-Daish both had efforts saved by McMaster, while up the other end, Nikola Roganovic made a courageous diving save to prevent a certain Heidelberg goal. The Bergers almost killed the game off when Dan Heffernan cut inside from the left but fired the ball over Roganovic’s crossbar.
There always looked to be another goal in the game and it came after 78 minutes through Epifano. Mala’s cross fell to the speedy winger at the back post and he lashed it home from close range to level the scores.
Less than ten minutes later, South had a penalty when Lujic was hauled down in the box by Steven Pace. The veteran Bergers defender was given his marching orders for being the last man, before Epifano coolly sent McMaster the wrong way from the spot kick for his sixth goal in four Cup matches in 2015.
The back four, led by the superb Roganovic, saw out the final few minutes to seal the win.
Taylor was delighted with his side’s never say die attitude. “We made hard work of it. Going behind, it was typical of what we’ve been doing the past four of five weeks, making it hard for ourselves.”
“It shows a lot of character to come back after a goal down, given recent results. A lot of sides could have thrown in the towel. Like our supporters sing, we fight until the end.”
South plays against the winner of the other semi final between Hume City and Oakleigh Cannons, which will be played at the Olympic Village tonight. The Dockerty Cup final will be played on Sunday 2 August at Lakeside Stadium.
FINAL SCORE: HEIDELBERG UNITED 1-2 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 1-0)
1-0: Kaine Sheppard (37’)
1-1: Nick Epifano (78’)
1-2: Nick Epifano (87’p)
23. Griffin McMASTER (GK), 2. Jamie CUMMING (12. Kenny ATHIEU 79’), 3. Les DOUMBALIS, 5. Daniel VASILEVSKI (24. Andrew CARTANOS 84’), 7. Rueben WAY, 10. Jack PETRIE, 13. Luke BYLES, 14. Daniel HEFFERNAN, 17. Steven PACE (sent off 86’), 20. Nejc KOLMAN, 22. Kaine SHEPPARD.
Unused Subs: 1. Jason KOUTSADONTIS (GK), 9. Kosta KANAKARIS, 11. Dean JANCESKI.
Yellow Cards: Athieu 82’.
South Melbourne FC:
1. Nikola ROGANOVIC (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 5. Luke ADAMS, 7. Nick EPIFANO, 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. David STIRTON (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 68’), 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqi JAWADI, 21. Jake BARKER-DAISH (23. Andy KECOJEVIC 68’), 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS.
Unused Subs: 6. Tom LAKIC, 20. Nick MORTON, 22. Fraser MacLAREN (GK).
Yellow Cards: Hatzikostas 27’.
SMFC Fix Hellas Beer Man of the Match: Stephen Hatzikostas
Venue: Jack Edwards Reserve
Date: Wednesday 15 July 2015