South Springvale Aris celebrated a return to State League 1 football next season after clinching promotion on a dramatic final day of the season with a 3-2 away win at Peninsula Strikers on Saturday. Aris’ win enabled the team to leapfrog second placed Berwick City, which lost to division champions Boroondara-Carey Eagles 2-3 in a see-sawing battle.
At Centenary Park, Aris deservedly took a 1-0 lead into the break thanks to a wonderful first time Miki Gamo finish from an excellent Marcelo Arapis cross. With news coming through that Berwick City and Boroondara were 1-1 at the break, Souths were on track to return to division one.
Early in the second half, South winger Daniel Clinton doubled the visitors’ lead after he was first to pounce on a blocked clearance ahead of the Strikers’ young keeper and score the easiest of goals.
However the home team responded with renewed intensity, equalising through a brace from central striker John Prescott. A tiring Aris defence, without the experience of suspended skipper Adrian Chiappetta, looked vulnerable at times and was fortunate not to concede a third. With news coming through that Berwick was now leading 2-1, a score that put them back in front in the promotion race, South fans desperately urged their side forward. With time running out, and Souths needing to win to have a chance of clinching promotion, Souths won a free kick on the edge of the box. Up stepped Marcelo Arapis and he drilled his shot low inside the left hand post for the 86th minute match winner.
With confirmation coming through that Boroondara had scored twice to defeat Berwick 3-2, Souths fans and players embraced each other in scenes of joyful celebration at winning promotion back to State League 1, just one season after being relegated.
Aris co-president Omi Emmanouilidis told Neos Kosmos that winning promotion back to State League 1 was the aim from the start of the season.
“We were disappointed we went to State League 2 last year, and the aim was to go straight back up because we knew if we didn’t go straight back up we could be lingering in State League 2 for a couple more years. We want to be playing in the highest level in community football. We know that NPL is a little bit out of our reach because there’re are lot of criteria you’ve got to be able to meet,” he said.
Not only did the senior team win promotion, but Aris’ reserve team won the title and Emmanouilidis praised all the coaching staff for the successful season of both teams.
“I think for starters, we’ve got to give credit to Steve Pavlidis because he worked tirelessly from October last year, when he was appointed. He pretty much put that (senior) team together. Then due to personal issues he had to step down. And we thought that if we brought Steve Voursoukis, a past player and premiership winning coach of South Springvale, that we probably had the right man for the job,” he said.
“We were lucky enough to appoint a very good reserves coach Peter Panagioutou. We appointed him from Oakleigh Cannons and we knew that he was going to bring young players for the future. And his match analysis and feedback to the senior coaches Steve Voursoukis and Andy Skledar, helped them prepare week by week for the challenge ahead. His analysis was very valuable.”
Former Souths player, Steve Voursoukis who answered the call and returned to the club to take on the senior coaching role four games into this season, after Saturday’s promotion sealing win said it was quite satisfying.
“There’s a little bit of romance behind it, coming back to your old club and coaching it to promotion, is quite satisfying. I think it’s well deserved by the players. They’ve been through a fair bit this year. Losing their coach in round four is never easy. The mental state of the game is huge. When there’re changes, you have to be able to handle those changes, and that’s what they’ve done. I think it was a matter of challenging them mentally … Every game was a challenge in itself. We had to keep winning just to get back in there. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew they were going to be hard to beat and had the capacity to win games.”