Image: Man in the Stands
Catch-up round in State League One saw only two fixtures played out, with both games having ramifications on the relegation battle in the third tier.
STATE LEAGUE 1
In the South-East, the Casey Comets reversed their loss against the Morwell Pegasus from a week ago by securing a 2-0 win over their regional opponents at Comets Stadium. Two first-half strikes from star midfielder Dejan Radojicic helped Jamie Skelly’s men climb out of the relegation zone and into eighth place on the standings, three points above Pegasus who, despite their respectable goal difference and improved form, sit in the relegation zone. It must be said however that just five points separate fourth from 11th with plenty of six-pointers to come in the final eight rounds of the campaign.
Over in the North-West, Altona East Phoenix upset the Preston Lions with a shock 1-0 victory at BT Connor Reserve on Sunday afternoon. A second-half strike from former St Albans and Moreland City attacker Liam Francis was enough for Alan Davidson to taste his second win from three games in charge of the club. That result moved the Phoenix out of last place on the ladder on goal difference, with their position now taken up by Westgate – although both have 10th place Yarraville in sight, with the Glory just one point above the relegation zone. The hosts meanwhile will need to regroup as they prepare to host traditional rivals Altona Magic this weekend, with Lou Acevski’s side determined to halt their opponent’s promotion charge.
STATE LEAGUE 2
Down in State League Two North-West, Andy O’Dell’s Altona City enjoy a two-point lead on top of the ladder ahead of local rivals Hoppers Crossing. A strike force featuring former Sunshine George Cross forward Ayodeji Omoboye and Marcus Sherif has netted a combined total of 20 goals this term for City, while ex-North Geelong midfielder Michael Simms has been a valuable addition to the league leaders. Hoppers Crossing will no doubt be relying on experienced campaigners such as Brian Chesson and Daniel Sweeney in attempting to lift the club into the third tier of Victorian football.
Third-placed Hume United are third two points off second place and have been largely free-scoring with the attacking exploits of the Enes Gurkan, Leon Osei and Fatih Turer not going unnoticed, while Preston exiles Michael Disasi and Ahmet Turer have provided added quality in the attacking third.
Fourth-placed Corio have impressed in attack and are led by exceptional spearhead Vedran Stojanovic, although Ante Didulica’s men will lose key midfielders Anthony Banovac and Steve Luczo to international duties this month. An Andrew Vlahos-managed Fitzroy City trail close behind in fifth with youngsters Jack Dalla Via and Aleks Hrkalovic impressing for the one-time VPL outfit. A Geelong Rangers side featuring former Port Melbourne pair Ryan Oppermann and Conor Reddan languish in mid-table alongside Sporting Whittlesea and Kevin Theuma’s Cairnlea. Westvale, managed by former Bendigo coach Srecko Baresic-Nikic, and Diamond Valley United are ninth and tenth respectively, while Essendon United and Moreland United are rooted in the relegation zone.
In the South-East, Doveton are one point ahead on top with local rivals Berwick City in second. Both clubs have recruited players from NPL2 in recent weeks, with the former acquiring the likes of Rinor Muriqi (Dandenong Thunder), Deniz Sabanovski (Box Hill United) and Slavisa Saric (Springvale White Eagles), while the latter have signed ex-Dandenong City trio Jarod Blackbourn, John Carroll and Andy Jerez.
The Eltham Redbacks are one point behind Berwick and are looking to repeat the feat of St Kilda by winning their fourth successive promotion, having plied their trade in State League 5 as recently as 2014, and are coached by the experienced Paul Harris. This week they host fourth-placed Beaumaris, who are coached by former NSL star Marcus Stergiopoulos and his assistant Sam Poutakidis, while fifth-placed Mazenod United have lost sight of promotion and recently dismissed coach Billy Natsioulas.
Heatherton United are sixth and have experienced a resurgence under former Beaumaris coach Shannon Kennedy, who is being assisted by ex-Socceroo Theo Selemidis. North Caulfield and Old Scotch have struggled for consistency and are positioned in mid-table, while the three Peninsula clubs are all struggling on the wrong end of the ladder with the Peninsula Strikers, Frankston Pines and Seaford United all in danger off the drop – as are Doncaster Rovers, who sit in the relegation zone, six points ahead of Seaford, whose time in the fourth tier is in danger of elapsing.