Round 12 one to forget for Dandenong’s NPL clubs

Timothy Atherinos scored a late goal for Dandenong City on Saturday night. 390441 Picture: DANDENONG CITY

By Marcus Uhe

Dandenong Thunder remains uncomfortably close to the drop zone in the National Premier League (NPL) Victoria competition in 11th place near the halfway mark of the season after a disappointing 3-0 loss on Friday night to the Melbourne Knights.

Melbourne, needing to show something after the dismissal of head coach Ben Surey and Assistant Coach, Craig Moore during the week, received the cliche ‘new manager bounce’, making Thunder look poor in the process.

Thunder found themselves on the back foot after just five minutes as a result of a bizarre decision from Ali Sulemani.

A miss-directed lofted ball by a Knights midfielder from the centre of the pitch dropped at his feet deep in defence on the Thunder’s left, but his inboard touch on the volley, intended for Daniel Dixon, put his central defenders under immense pressure.

Aidan Edwards recovered the ball and played back to Ben Djiba, but he gave the ball away to Knights striker Ciaran Bramwell.

Bramwell steadied himself before letting rip with his right boot from outside the area, making the home side pay dearly for the mistake.

Sulemani was again caught out of position in the 26th minute as the Knights took a 2-0 lead.

Sulemani’s opponent slipped around the back of him on the right-hand wing and collected possession moments before reaching the touch line.

Bramwell passed a tracking Daniel Alessi in the centre of the penalty area and finished with a simple tap-in in front of Pierce Clark.

It became 3-0 in the second half after the home side put themselves under pressure at the back once again.

The Knights acquired possession in their back half and picked their way down the Thunder’s right side of defence before teeing up a shot for Saif-Eddine Sakhi, whose bullet burst through the fingertips of Clark.

Ben Djiba’s attempt to swoop on a pass just inside the Thunder’s defensive half proved costly, as it forced a reshuffle of the Thunder backs as they tracked towards their goal, ultimately unable to recover in time.

It capped a poor week for Thunder, eliminated by Moreland City in a penalty shootout in the Dockerty Cup on Wednesday night.

Last week’s return to winning ways against a battling St Albans can now be seen as a flash in the pan, as the loss to Melbourne Knights makes it four losses in five league matches.

Crucially, they continue to drop vital points at home, with the St Albans win the only victory at George Andrews Reserve this season, and the goal difference falls to -14, undoing the good work from the 3-0 win the previous week.

They’ll face their Cup conqueror in Moreland City away on Saturday afternoon, which is winless in the league thus far.

Cross-town rivals Dandenong City only fared slightly better in a 3-1 loss to Port Melbourne.

City conceded twice in five minutes in the second half against the high-flying Sharks to fall to its fourth loss of the season, simply outclassed by a better opponent on a number of occasions.

Tom Bower came close to opening the scoring in the 29th minute with a backwards header from an awkward angle, but it was the home side that opened the scoring before half time.

Sharks striker Emmanuel Peters charged past two City defenders to gather a lofted through ball over the defensive pair, to square a cross perfectly for teammate Jackson Courtney-Perkins at the back post.

With John Hall shutting off the near post, he was unable to recover in time to quell the attack, allowing the home side to edge ahead in the 37th minute.

City’s defences were methodically opened up again by the Sharks in the 60th minute as the home side made it 2-0.

Sending numbers to the ball in an attempt to force a turnover on the right, space was left on Port Melbourne’s left side for Daniel Edwards to whip in a cross once the ball found its way to the open side.

The ball dragged Hall away from his goal, but he was unable to meet the cross in time, as Courtney-Perkins added a second goal with a volley, having slipped Jack Webster in the centre of the penalty area.

It was 3-0 shortly after, as Port Melbourne took the ball the length of the pitch against a tiring Dandenong defence.

Dispossessed deep in attack and with numbers pressing high in a desperate effort to reduce the lead, City was opened up on the counter attack as Peters found the back of the net, having slipped through the last line of defence.

City manager Nick Tolios let rip with a quadruple substitution in the second half, bringing on Kenny Athiu, Kyan Bryant, Tim Atherinos and Michael Martinovic for Tom Bower, James Xydias, Nicholas Hamakiotis and Brady Quinn, all at the same time.

Atherinos made an impact by pegging back a consolation goal for City, capping a brilliant run on the left hand side and negotiating a tangle of legs to make it 3-1 in the 77th minute, but that was where the scoring started and finished for the visitors.

Bryant nearly connected with a volley in the 85th minute sent his shot over the bar, while Athiu forced a goalline save from the Sharks stopper in the 88th, but the valiant efforts were in vain, having fallen too far behind in the first half.

Despite the result, City remains well placed in seventh as the season reaches its halfway mark.

City welcomes second-placed Heidelberg United to Frank Holohan on Friday night.