Arguably the match of the round for Round 20 of PS4 NPL Victoria action will take place at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex on Friday night when the Bentleigh Greens host South Melbourne FC.
The match is of vital importance to both sides in the race to secure the 2016 Premiership – South’s third in a row should it finish the regular season in first place. Chris Taylor’s side will maintain its current one-point lead over John Anastasiadis’ men with a draw on Friday night but can extend their lead to four points in what would be a huge win. Should Bentleigh win, they will secure a two-point lead over South with seven league matches remaining before the finals series.
Bentleigh has lost only once to South in seven meetings between the two sides across all competitions. The sides have already met three times in 2016 as Bentleigh secured the FFV Community Shield in February with a 3-0 win and then embarrassed South 4-0 in the final round of FFA Cup qualifying last month. Sandwiched in between these two meetings was a 2-1 league win for South in NPL Victoria action at Lakeside Stadium back in April. Kristian Konstantinidis and Mathew Theodore scored South’s two goals and goalkeeper Nikola Roganovic pulled off two magnificent saves from two late Bentleigh penalty kicks to secure three points for his side.
The key Bentleigh players to watch out for are captain Wayne Wallace, former South championship winner Tyson Holmes and striker Chris Lucas. All three were magnificent in Bentleigh’s FFA Cup triumph against South as they constantly harassed and forced South’s players to give the ball away cheaply, which lead to their four unanswered goals. All three will have to be shut out if South are to gain maximum points on Friday night.
Tim Mala was sent off late in the game as South drew 2-2 with Hume City at Lakeside Stadium last Friday night and will serve the first of his two-match suspension against the Greens this Friday. Prolific goal scorer Milos Lujic picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign against Hume and must serve the mandatory one-match suspension against Bentleigh. Taylor was sent off from the coaching bench in the Hume game and he will serve a one-match touchline suspension on Friday night.
The losses of Mala and Lujic will be felt heavily by South but this presents an excellent opportunity for other players within the squad to step up and replace those players. Manuel ‘Manolo’ Herrero was superb off the bench against Hume as he provided a perfect assist for Lujic’s second goal and he is expected to feature prominently in South’s attack on Friday night.
Friday night’s match kicks off at 8:15pm at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex.
SMFC v Bentleigh Greens – Head to Head (League & Finals)
Matches Played: 16
Wins (SMFC): 7
Wins (BGFC): 6
First match: Bentleigh Greens 0-1 SMFC (15 May 2005, Kingston Heath)
Last match: SMFC 2-1 Bentleigh Greens (10 April 2016, Lakeside Stadium)
Biggest Winning Margin (SMFC): 2 goals (3-1 win, 21 August 2005, Lakeside Stadium)
Biggest Winning Margin (BGFC): 3 goals (4-1 win, 21 July 2013, Lakeside Stadium)
Most Goals in a Match (SMFC): 3 (21 August 2005, Lakeside Stadium)
Most Goals in a Match (BGFC): 4 (21 July 2013, Lakeside Stadium)
Biggest Finals Win (SMFC): None
Biggest Finals Win (BGFC): 3-1 (13 September 2015, Lakeside Stadium)