Fans of NPL football, thirsting for the return of competitive football, turned out in impressive numbers for the opening round of the NPL1 season last week. Last season’s NPL 1 grand finalists kicked off their seasons with wins, with Bentleigh Greens dispatching a 10 man newly promoted Dandenong Thunder 3-1 after trailing to an early goal.
Meanwhile the team touted as the best outside the A-League, Heidelberg United Football Club, had to fight hard for a 1-0 away win at Port Melbourne. The winner came, not unexpectedly, from the left boot of Sean Ellis. However the manner of the goal caught Port by surprise as Ellis found the net directly with a corner kick.
Another winner from the opening round is Kingston City which triumphed 4-2 at home on Monday evening against Hume City. New Kingston striker Oliver White, made an auspicious start for the Reds with a brace, twice giving Kingston the lead only for the visitors to reply each time through spectacular strikes to Offli and captain coach Nick Hegarty. However Kingston was able to break the Hume shackles and burst clear to post a first up win with two late goals to Tidmarsh and Iaconis.
South Melbourne began its season under new coach Sasa Kolman with a 1-1 draw away to Bulleen, in what is turning into something of a tradition, making it three draws in its last three visits to the Veneto Club.
South dominated play creating enough good chances to take all three points however it found itself behind to a looping Austin Wong header before half time. Matt Millar equalized for the Lakesiders on the end of an impressive passing sequence. New recruits Andy Brennan, and centre back Christos Intzidis, impressed for South but of some concern was a late knee injury to new keeper Alastair Bray.
Like Port Melbourne Sharks, both Oakleigh Cannons and Northcote City came away empty handed from their first round matches. Cannons lost 3-2 away to the Melbourne Knight after taking an early lead through debutante striker Wade Dekker. However the Knights scored three unanswered goals before the Cannons other debutante striker Ryan Paczkowski pulled one back for the visitors. The Cannons cause wasn’t helped by some uncertain defending, and injuries to both centre backs during the game.
Northcote City suffered the biggest loss of the round, a 4-1 away defeat at Pascoe Vale. After a scoreless first half with chances at both ends, the home team went ahead through Davey Van’t Schip. City’s Melbourne City Youth recruit Gerrie Sylaidos equalized with a wonderful solo goal, before the Vales scored three unanswered goals in a ten minute spell in the second half. To add salt to the wound, City lost defender Charlie Beverley to a late red card.
Rd 2 NPL 1 matches Saturday:
Avodale v Kingston
City 3.00 pm Paisley Park, Altona
Dandenong Thunder v South Melbourne FC 7.00 pm George
Andrews Reserve, South Dandenong
Heidelberg v Bulleen
7.00 pm , Olympic Village
Hume City v Northcote City 8.00 pm ABD Stadium, Broadmeadows
Rd 3 NPL 2 matches
Brunswick City v North Geelong 3.00 pm Dunstan Reserve
Box Hill United v Melbourne City 3.15 pm Wembley Park, Box