South Melbourne FC will be gunning for its first State League Grand Final appearance in nine years when it hosts Pascoe Vale in PS4 NPL Victoria Semi Final action at Lakeside Stadium tonight.
As there was no Finals Series in Victoria last season, South Melbourne hasn’t competed in a title decider since September 2006, when Gianni De Nittis’ header was enough to defeat Altona Magic 1-0. A place in the 2015 Grand Final would be a fitting reward for a side that has already claimed the FFV Community Shield, the Dockerty Cup and the Premier’s Plate already this season.
The big team news coming out of Lakeside is that two weeks after injuring himself against Northcote City, star striker Milos Lujic has been declared fit to play tonight. Lujic trained during the week and has been given the all-clear by the medical staff to play in tonight’s do-or-die clash that sees the losing team eliminated from the finals race. This news will come as a huge relief to Coach Chris Taylor, who must have feared the worst after seeing his Golden Boot winner land awkwardly a fortnight ago.
Nick Epifano also returns to the field tonight after serving a one-match suspension against Northcote City on 23 August. Epifano has scored 14 goals from the flank this season and created countless more through his speed and clever feet. South will unfortunately be missing fan favourite Tim Mala however, after the right-back received his fifth yellow card for the season and must now serve a mandatory one-match ban. Chris Irwin will most likely replace him at right-back for tonight’s match. Captain Michael Eagar and Leigh Minopoulos will both play their 50th League match for South Melbourne tonight.
In order to book its place in the 2015 NPL Victoria Grand Final, South will have to overcome an impressive Pascoe Vale outfit that defeated Heidelberg United 3-0 on penalties (following a 2-2 draw after extra time) at the Olympic Village last Sunday in their Elimination Final. It was Pascoe Vale’s first ever finals match in Victoria’s top flight and a remarkable result as sixth place knocked out third place.
South Melbourne and Pascoe Vale have met only six times in the past, with South winning four times and with two draws between the sides. Lujic scored the only goal of the game when South defeated Pascoe Vale 1-0 at Lakeside Stadium earlier this season on Friday 24 April, before the two sides played out a 0-0 draw at CB Smith Reserve on Saturday 25 July.
Vitale Ferrante’s squad have proven to be a difficult side to break down all season and South will need to be at their very best if they are to progress to the Grand Final. Former South man Joseph Youssef is Pascoe Vale’s top scorer this season so far with 12 goals. There are other familiar faces in the Pascoe Vale team such as Carl Recchia and Michael Ferrante, both of whom are proven match winners and can cause many problems for South Melbourne.
Tonight’s winners will play the winner of the other Semi Final between the Bentleigh Greens and Hume City in the 2015 NPL Victoria Grand Final at Lakeside Stadium next Sunday 13 September.
Tonight’s Semi Final between South Melbourne and Pascoe Vale kicks off at 7:30pm at Lakeside Stadium. All supporters are urged to attend and support the boys in what promises to be a memorable night of football. Those unable to make the match can follow live updates on the Club’s Facebook and Twitter accounts by using the handles #SMFC and #PS4NPLVIC.