Two final round derbies look set to decide the NPL minor premiership this Sunday after South Melbourne grabbed back top spot on the ladder on goal difference from Bentleigh Greens. The Greens will host Oakleigh Cannons whilst South Melbourne hosts Northcote City.
Souths have overtaken the Greens following two powerful wins in the space of 5 days starting with last Saturday’s 7-0 win away to Avondale and followed by Wednesday night’s 5-2 home win over Hume City in a catch up game.
When asked about South’s strong finish to the season, coach Chris Taylor told Neo Kosmos, “Probably the biggest catalyst is that we’ve been able to put the same team on the park for three games, which we’ve not managed to do all season. We’ve had two or three changes every single week. This is the first time we’ve had pretty much the same line up for three games on the trot. It’s made a massive difference.”
Standing between South Melbourne and a second consecutive minor premiership is Sunday’s derby opponent Northcote City of which Taylor says, “They generally rise to the occasion and play very well against us. They always give us a very difficult game. They’re very well coached by Goran Lozanovski, so we know its not going to be an easy game regardless of where the positions are in the league. They’ll definitely be up for it. They’re a very committed group and will give it all they’ve got. ..If you had’ve offered me second place 5 or 6 weeks ago, I would’ve taken it. But now we’re in the position where we control our own destiny. At the end of the day, if we’re good enough we’ll win the league. If we’re not good enough to beat Northcote, we don’t deserve to win the league.”
The Greens ensured the race goes all the way to the wire with an injury time winner from Troy Ruthven in their 1-0 derby win away to Northcote City last Saturday.
Speaking on Green TV after the narrow win against Northcote, Bentleigh coach John Anastasiadis conceded that the race for the minor premiership ” is out of our hands now. We’ll just go out and treat our last game against Oakleigh Cannons as a cup final for us. Let’s just hope a little bit of luck falls our way. I want to finish on top because of the NPL-Australia situation. That for me was the main thing. A lot of things we did wrong in the past 6 or 7 games we played, when we should’ve won games and we didn’t. I suppose that’s football. Take the year as a whole, I can’t really fault the boys. We’ve been on top now for, I don’t know how long, 15 or 16 weeks, so it’s a great effort, but we’ve got one more game to go and hopefully we can stay on top.”
Heidelberg United have fallen behind the top two in recent games by dropping points but will be hoping to defeat relegated Dandenong Thunder at home on Sunday to have a chance of regaining third spot ahead of the Melbourne Knights who host Port Melbourne Sharks.
In NPL 1E Rd 25 action, 5th placed Box Hill United hosts 6th placed Eastern Lions on Saturday in what could be one of the matches of the round. Another anticipated game takes place at the Grange on Monday night when 3rd placed Kingston City hosts top of the table Melbourne Victory.
In NPL1 West, Brunswick City hosts Moreland Zebras on Saturday.
The State Leagues have a bye this round to allow for catch-up matches.
Western Suburbs SC had its lead at the top of the SL NW 1 table cut to three points following its surprise scoreless draw at home to Diamond Valley United last Sunday. However a win in one of its final two matches should be enough to clinch the title.
In State League 2 NW, Yarraville slipped from top spot to 3rd after a surprise 1-1 home draw to the winless Melbourne University.
Sporting Whittlesea also missed a great opportunity to climb to equal top on points, losing 1-0 at home to Geelong SC.