With NPL Victoria matches postponed until at least April 14, Joey Lynch reviews Round 5 of NPL action and where things stand for now.
With five rounds of the season gone, Hume City has remained perfect after downing Bentleigh Greens to go five points clear atop the NPL Victoria table, while Eastern Lions and Altona Magic both registered their first points on the season.
Dandenong City welcomed Heidelberg United to Frank Holohan Soccer Complex for the first of the round’s contests last Friday but was unable to maintain Fortress Hajduk; the Bergers using a 63rd minute strike from Josh Wilkins to come away with all three points.
Getting down the right-flank, the Perth-born Heidelberg right-back secured his first goal of the season after heading down a long ball to the feet of teammate Dusan Bosnjak and peeling in behind the Dandy City defence.
Receiving a well-placed return ball from his teammate, Wilkins then chipped an effort over Damir Salcin to secure his side the win.
Chris Taylor’s Oakleigh Cannons suffered their first defeat in Friday evening’s other contest, going down 3-0 as Green Gully moved into ninth place with back-to-back wins.
Alex Salmon brought down a long Jordon Lampard free-kick and sent it home in the 25th minute to give his side the lead, before Nicholas Georgopoulos, after a frantic series of thrust and parry in the Cannons penalty area, eventually fired in from an acute angle to make it 2-0 in the 76th minute.
Getting on the end of an inch-perfect ball swung in behind the Cannons’ defence from Stefan Nigro, Salmon then brought up his brace in the 78th minute to seal the result for Gully.
St Albans remained undefeated, but fell back to seventh, after recording a 0-0 draw with fellow newly-promoted side Eastern Lions on Saturday evening.
Having suffered defeat in their first four games of the season, coach Jimmy Williams’ side headed to Churchill Reserve with their backs against the wall but, thanks to a standout performance in goals from Keegan Coulter, was able to stage a successful rear-guard to deny Dinamo and escape with their first point of the season.
Altona, likewise, did enough to secure their first point of the season in their Saturday evening contest at Makland Park but disappointingly for the Magic, they will be asking what might have been after conceding an 85th minute equaliser in their 1-1 draw with South Melbourne.
Cutting inside from the left before combining on a sharp one-two with Nicholas Sette and shooting true in the second minute of first-half stoppage time, former Melbourne Victory youth Stefan Ristic gave the Magic the lead in the meeting, only for South captain Brad Norton to equalise with five minutes of regulation when he met a short corner routine with a towering header that thundered past Shane Viitakangas in the host’s goal.
But while Lions and the Magic may have been registering their first points for the campaign on Saturday, Hume City was doing anything but – making it five wins from five after downing defending champions Bentleigh Greens.
The result also afforded Hume gaffer Nick Hegarty some small measure of revenge, after the Greens downed his side in a penalty shootout to win the 2020 NPL Victoria Community Shield.
Former Central Coast Mariner Josh Bingham scored the lone goal of the game in the 64th; the 25-year-old rising like an Easter Island statue to drive a headed effort past Javier Lopez after a cross was floated into the back post.
But if Hume is just going out and getting the job done, Avondale FC is looking to make statements – the Avengers blowing the doors off Melbourne Knights on their way to a 6-1 win at City Vista Reserve in Saturday’s final contest.
Coach Zoran Markovski’s side took the lead in just the 12th minute when Yusuf Ahmed, who was exemplary for his side, struck true after being played in behind the Knights by Stefan Zinni.
Moments later Zinni made it two when he broke thought the defence and poked a shot beyond Harry Cakarun.
Stefan Valentini then stretched the lead to three in the 16th minute to pile on further pain, before Hamish Watson was able to drag one back for Croatia when he was found by a long ball from Nikola Jurkovic and put his fifth goal of the season beyond Chris Oldfield.
Valentini grabbed his second of the game to restore Avondale’s three-goal buffer just before half time, and Matthew Reid and substitute Jonatan Germano added second-half goals to pile further pain on Knights.
The win moves Avondale just a point behind Dandenong Thunder on the NPL Victoria table after the latter suffered their first defeat of the year against Port Melbourne Sharks at George Andrews Reserve on Sunday afternoon.
The Thunder had looked set to make it four wins from five as the game ticked over into the final ten minutes in Melbourne’s southeast; Brandon Barnes’ 17th minute quickly taken free-kick the difference between the two sides.
However, Harley Orr’s inability to do anything but turn Yuta Konagaya’s driven low cross into his own net in the 81st minute gave life to the Sharks, which they promptly took advantage of, to steal the win seven minutes later when Francesco Stella headed home a Chris Duggan cross.