NPL Derby Preview : SMFC vs Heidelberg United

South Melbourne FC’s huge month of football continues tonight when Chris Taylor’s men host traditional rivals Heidelberg United at Lakeside Stadium in round 19 PlayStation 4 NPL Victoria action.

South will be looking to bounce back against their old foes following the disappointing 0-1 home defeat to the Bentleigh Greens last Sunday, its first home loss in the League in nearly two years.

Tonight’s meeting against Heidelberg is another top of the table blockbuster, with South currently sitting second on the NPL Victoria ladder on 42 points, two points ahead of third-placed Heidelberg.

Star winger Nick Epifano will again be missing, as will defender Luke Adams who is still on international duty with New Zealand. Mathew Theodore suffered a concussion in the first half of the Bentleigh game last Sunday and is considered a 50/50 chance to take his place in the starting line-up tonight.

One bright note from last Sunday’s defeat was the return of midfield enforcer Stephen Hatzikostas from a long-term injury layoff. Hatzikostas came off the bench to play the final ten minutes of the Bentleigh match and will be in consideration for selection tonight.

Heidelberg was on top of the League standings at one point during June but has stumbled slightly in the last fortnight. Bentleigh defeated them 4-0 at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex on Friday 19 June, before the Bergers conceded an equalising goal in the third minute of second half injury time to draw 1-1 draw against Avondale FC at the Olympic Village last Sunday.

George Katsakis’ men still possess a number of dangerous options in attack, including the likes of Dan Heffernan and Kaine Sheppard, though it remains to be seen if either will play tonight due to recent injuries. Sheppard scored the equalising goal in the second half in the 1-1 draw between Heidelberg and South Melbourne at the Olympic Village earlier this year on Sunday 29 March after Milos Lujic opened the scoring in the first half.

South Melbourne and Heidelberg have been rivals since their very first League meeting on 30 March 1964. In 79 League meetings, South Melbourne has won 40 games, Heidelberg has won 20 games and there have been 19 draws. South’s best win was 5-0 at Middle Park on 17 November 1991, with Heidelberg’s best win being 5-2 at Middle Park on 4 July 1977.

In the corresponding fixture played on Sunday 22 June 2014, South Melbourne smashed Heidelberg 3-0 at Lakeside Stadium.

South has a fixture congestion during July. Following tonight’s game, South has League matches against Green Gully (home, 7 July), Melbourne Knights (away, 12 July), Hume City (home, 19 July) and Pascoe Vale (away, 25 July). Sandwiched in between them is the Dockerty Cup semi final meeting against Heidelberg (15 July at Jack Edwards Reserve), as well as the possibility of playing Palm Beach SC in the Westfield FFA Cup on the Gold Coast on either 28 or 29 July.

Tonight’s clash between South Melbourne FC and Heidelberg United kicks off at 8:30pm at Lakeside Stadium. Those unable to make the match can follow proceedings on the club’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, using the handles #SMFC and #PS4NPLVIC.