South Melbourne FC’s season goes on the line at Lakeside on Sunday afternoon when it faces Hume City in the second NPL elimination final.
Both teams will be striving for a place in the following week’s semi-final away to second placed Heidelberg United which along with Bentleigh Greens has a week’s rest during the first week of finals.
South Melbourne dropped to third place on the NPL table after incurring a three point penalty from the FFV tribunal for misconduct by one of its fans. The club announced this week its decision not to appeal the tribunal’s decision rather than risk incurring further penalties.
South Melbourne coach Chris Taylor said of the penalty, “Obviously the players are pretty deflated by the whole thing. We felt we’d done the right thing and we wanted second spot. We’d worked hard to achieve that. Now we’ve got a much harder route to get there but sometimes that helps with the character. We’re up for the challenge. There’s no doubt about it.”
Taylor expects Hume to be buoyed by their good performance against Melbourne Victory in the FFA Cup midweek.
“They did very well. You’d imagine they’ll be lifted by that performance… They’re a strong side. We know it’s going to be a big challenge, a very difficult game. Carley, Cahill, Harris and Hegarty; They’ve got quality all around the park. They’re capable of scoring goals from a lot of places,” he said.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s elimination final, fans can expect a closely fought match between South and Hume especially if their previous two encounters this season are anything to go by. South holds a narrow edge winning their first meeting this season 2-1 at ABD stadium where for a large part of the game, Hume played with 10 men. The return match at Lakeside ended all square at 2-2 with another sending off, this time to South Melbourne.
After enduring a rough month in July, South has won its last three matches leading into Sunday’s final, the last being Sunday’s 4-2 home win over fellow finalist Green Gully. South spearhead Milos Lujic scored twice in that game clinching the Golden Boot award for a remarkable fourth year in a row. Taylor says, “We’ve been a free scoring side and that’s been one of our strengths. We need to work very hard at the other end of the ground and make sure that we’re not conceding which we’ve done all year and probably been our Achilles heel this year. If we can tighten it up at the back, I’m sure we can get the result we’re seeking. We’re at home, we expect to get a good crowd and we want to put on a good show for our supporters who deserve us playing well.”
Preceding the men’s elimination final, South Melbourne senior women’s team will be shooting for the 2016 State League title knowing a win over Eltham in the final match of the season will clinch the title for Souths. The women’s match kicks off at 3.00 pm at Lakeside followed by the men’s elimination final.
The NPL 2 E home and away season enters the penultimate round with the battle for top spot set to go to the wire after Kingston City’s thrilling 4-3 away win over league leader Dandenong Thunder last Saturday night. A Rowan McManamee header provided the late winner for the visitors after a see-sawing battle.
After the match, Kingston City coach Nick Tolios commented, “I’m super proud of our boys. As a coach I’ve grown up at this club. What we showed in that second half and to come down away from home, Thunder had everything to play for, the crowd with them. Just super proud. I haven’t seen that side of Kingston since I was a very young boy. Hopefully it spurs them on, whether we win it outright or whether we have to go through the play-offs.”
On Saturday Kingston hosts Goulburn Valley Suns, whilst Dandenong Thunder visits Easter Lions.
In other NPL 2 E Rd 27 action on Saturday, fourth placed Brunswick City visits fifth placed Box Hill United. Box Hill will be up against a very confident Brunswick City which hasn’t lost a game since Rd 13.
The State Leagues have a bye this weekend to allow for a catch-up round. On Saturday, SE 1 title chasing Malvern City travels to Langwarrin whilst South Springvale travels to Morwell Pegasus.
In NW 1 action on Sunday, Western Suburbs hosts Sydenham Park.