All to Play for in Final Round of NPL

There is nothing in the world that quite approaches the pageantry, excitement and drama of the final day of a football season; when all that stands between jubilation and despair, success and failure and survival and demotion is 90 minutes of football.

As the top flight of Victorian men’s football enters its final round of play – with the round’s seven fixtures all set for simultaneous kick-offs on Sunday afternoon – the top six may already be determined, but everything else remains very much up in the air.

For the first time since round four, a side other than Avondale will take the field sitting atop the table heading after Heidelberg United vaulted the side from the Reggio Calabria Club after Sean Ellis’ dramatic, 94th minute winner consigned The Avengers to defeat in their round 25 meeting.

Nevertheless, despite being two points clear of Avondale entering the weekend, Heidelberg cannot afford to rest on their laurels when they run out against old foes South Melbourne at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday; their goal difference of +22 nine goals adrift of the Avengers +31.

Should Avondale head down to Kingston Heath and secure the three points against Bentleigh Greens, only a win would ensure that Head Coach George Katsakis’ Alexander would lift their third successive Premier’s Plates. 

With South Melbourne set to mark the contest with a celebration of their 60th Anniversary, Hellas would like nothing more than to deny their rivals the chance to lift that Plate on their own field.

However, in order to set the stage for said drama, Avondale will need to record a win over Bentleigh.

The Greens have been in freefall in recent weeks, only winning one of their past five as they fell from the ranks of Premiership contenders and down to the fourth position.

Should the Greens go down to Avondale, the 2016 Premiers could potentially drop as far as the sixth place on the end-of-season table; fifth-placed Oakleigh Cannons (vs Green Gully) and sixth-placed Hume City (vs Kingston City) both able to leapfrog the Greens with a win.

The matchup between Gully and Oakleigh, as well as having major ramifications for Bentleigh, will also determine the hosts of at least one Elimination Final in week one of the finals.

A win from either side will guarantee them a place in the top four at the end of the season whilst a draw, should Bentleigh suffer defeat and Hume prove unable to defeat Kingston, would see both sides secure home finals.

Though unlikely, the prospect of Hume securing a final at ABD Stadium also remains a possibility; Head Coach Nick Hegarty’s side needing to defeat Kingston and have both the Cannons and Greens lose to jump up to fourth place on the table.

On the other end of the spectrum, Dandenong Thunder, Kingston City and Pascoe Vale remain in a dogfight to secure 12th position on the table and a chance to fight for their lives in a promotion and relegation playoff at AAMI Park on September 15.

Currently occupying that slot in the playoff, 12th placed Dandenong Thunder can secure a fixture at AAMI Park with a win when Melbourne Knights pay a visit to Dacland Stadium.

A draw in that fixture, though, whilst enough to see off any potential challenge from bottom-placed Pascoe Vale, would leave them eligible to being leapfrogged by Kingston should they defeat Hume.

With a goal difference that is +9 better than the Thunder, a Kingston draw, combined with a Thunder loss, would also do enough to see Head Coach Nick Tolios’ side secure 12th position on the table.

Bottom of the table, Paco will require the football gods to smile upon them to maintain any hope of staying in the top tier alive: needing to beat the Altona Magic on the road and for the Thunder and Kingston to both go down to secure a place in the Promotion and Relegation Playoff.