Image: Mark Avellino
Dandenong Thunder will be out to preserve their lead in NPL2 East having taken top spot off Dandenong City, who had previously been the ladder leaders for the best part of 13 weeks. Moreland Zebras’ loss in the West was Northcote’s gain as the latter restored a nine-point lead at the top in the home stretch of the season.
Dandenong Thunder’s league lead came courtesy of a 1-0 win over Eastern Lions, Veton Korcari enjoying his twilight years with another goal in a terrific run of form. There was no repeat of the defeat against the Lions in 2016 which spelled the club’s downfall from automatic promotion, with the victory last week acting as a springboard for what the club hopes will be redemption in 2017, with their next clash at home against a tricky Goulburn Valley Suns outfit.
However, it marks greater trouble for Eastern though, who are four points off safety in last place.
One of their potential relegation rivals in Box Hill added a point to their campaign while condemning Dandenong City to their third consecutive draw, their reason for relinquishing top spot. City recovered from Gerry Kavadas’ opener through goals to Daniel Visevic and Shaun Filipovic but Todd Dekker’s 64th minute goal locked the scores up at 2-2. City will now travel to the border hoping to emulate Richmond and defeat Murray there.
Richmond were the big movers, earning a crucial three points in a difficult road trip to the border to stifle Murray United and take a 1-0 win home, courtesy of Dion Gavalas’ winner – a great moment for the club’s youth product. It’s a massive clash on the weekend now as Richmond travel to face Eastern in a six-pointer.
Goulburn Valley Suns fared the better of the regional sides by seeing off Melbourne City 4-3. Rob Hughes and Jamie England had the visitors two to the good before a five minute blitz in the second half saw Dylan Pieras’ double sandwich Austin Wong’s goal to have City up 3-2. Fabrice Ebe then netted late before Hughes secured his brace on the stroke of the 90 to win a rollercoaster thriller.
The other game in the East saw Springvale keep Nunawading amongst the relegation zone with a 3-2 triumph. Nate Foster and Gavin De Niese – who headed to Portugal during the week – had the Eagles two to the good before Mitch Cooper and Patrick Gerhardt squared the ledger late. No problems for Foster who netted the winner to send the hosts into raptures.
Springvale travel to Box Hill next while Nunawading host Melbourne City.
In the West, Northcote had their second consecutive 1-0 win over Werribee in 2017 as Josh Knight’s penalty proved enough to get one over an improved Werribee outfit in the second half of the season. But their biggest test will come this weekend against the Zebras, who will have done some soul-searching after their loss to Whittlesea.
The Ranges stunned the promotion-chasing Zebras with one of their best results of the campaign, winning 2-0. Danny Charalambous assisted Jacob Colosimo for a 15th minute lead in the first half and there was a sense of déjà vu as the same duo combined for the latter’s brace – also some 15 minutes into the second half. It’s now a draw against leaders Northcote and win against second place Zebras in consecutive weeks which would have Vinko Buljubasic asking where that form has been throughout the year.
Moreland City reduced the gap below the Zebras to four points courtesy of a 3-1 win over Brunswick. Tom Owens cancelled out Ben Osei-Safo’s opener but Trent Rixon – as usual – and Fraser Hills restored and extended Moreland’s lead, with Matt Reid and Matt Conversano exchanging red cards late. Adrian Mathers’ men will now have to navigate the tricky Ranges on Saturday.
Melbourne Victory notched up a welcome win against Bendigo in a season that has been in heavy decline in the latter half of the season. Abraham Lokiru and Kevin Walker netted the first and last goals of the match for Bendigo, but a Nicholas Hatzigeorgiou double and further goals to Nicholas Sette, Nuh Sehavdic and Callum Goulding did the damage in between.
In scenes at Chaplin Reserve, Ballarat City suffered a 3-2 loss at the hands of Sunshine George Cross despite being 2-0 until nearly extra time. Dom Swinton’s double, the second of which came in the 85th minute, seemed as though it would be enough for Danny Gnjidic’s side to take three points back to Ballarat. However, Anthony Laus teed up Teddy Yabio to guide the ball past a helpless Josh Dorron for a glimmer of hope. Laus then turned scorer as Brandon Xerri won a penalty, before Laus completed his blitz in the last minute for a game he’ll never forget – and Ballarat will wonder how the win slipped from their grasp.
Ballarat will host regional rivals Bendigo on the weekend, while Sunshine will look to consolidate fourth against Brusnwick.