Thunder pinch impressive draw as coach calls for action

Dandenong Thunder held Hume City scoreless on Saturday night. Picture: DANDENONG THUNDER

By Marcus Uhe

Dandenong Thunder coach Adam Piddick is hoping that his side’s embarrassing loss to bottom-placed Moreland last week will act as a wake up call as they embark on the second half of the National Premier League (NPL) Victoria campaign.

Thunder conceded twice in the opening four minutes of play on the way to a 4-0 loss against a side that was winless before the fixture, giving them the worst goal difference in the competition after round 13.

Piddick took the role under indifferent circumstances in January and has been forced to juggle a host of injuries to senior players while implementing his style of football that has brought him individual success at previous clubs.

Defender, Gavin De Niese is one of three players that will miss the remainder of the season with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament, while striker Deri Corfe and defender Daniel Alessi’s nagging injuries have provided challenges for the squad in building all-important continuity, and forced Piddick to call on young, inexperienced players prematurely for NPL football.

He says he cannot fault the team’s effort, but now is the time for results.

“If the players aren’t embarrassed by that result (against Moreland), then we’ve got big problems,” Piddick said.

“We had a good chat during the week about expectations, accountability and all that type of stuff, and at the end of the day, they’re just words, but we hope to see the actions on the pitch.

“I think we’ve been decent at (defending across the pitch), it’s a lot of defending in and around the 18 yard box, concentration, that mentality of throwing your body in front of a ball that someone’s had a shot at or proper clearances, marking tighter, organisation (that needs to improve).

“That’s the big thing that I’m trying to change, the players’ mentality.

“That’s easier said than done and takes a bit of time to work on it.

“Hopefully the boys can turn the corner.”

Piddick sees improvement in adapting to the game style from the beginning of the campaign, despite sitting just outside the drop zone as the season turns for the run home.

But the reliance on inexperienced players and the absence of some senior heads is creating problems in critical areas on the pitch, and leading to unwanted mistakes.

“In terms of our style, we’ve become better in possession with the ball, but we’ve become easy to score against,” Piddick said.

“There’s lapses of concentration in key areas, the big moments where, if we have to defend our box, or we get a chance, we’re not taking.

“Our football between each 18-yard box has improved from the first game that we played, but our football in each 18-yard box has to improve, if we’re going to get results for the rest of the year.

“We’re getting there, we just need a little bit more quality and a little bit more harder and stronger mentality in the group.”

Thunder made a positive start to the second half of the season by holding fifth-placed and former Thunder coach David Chick’s Hume City to a scoreless draw in Meadow Heights on Saturday night.

The home side did more of the attacking on Saturday night but failed to find the decisive blow, despite taking 16 shots to Dandenong’s 12, and having 10 corner’s to Dandenong’s four.

Wade Dekker nearly opened the scoring in the fifth minute, after Hume City goal keeper Jackson Riley failed to successfully grasp a Thunder free kick, but Dekker could not find a way past the gloveman, who had made himself big on the goalline to deny the striker.

Pierce Clark was kept busy at the other end of the pitch as Hume City made much of the early attacking, but he and the Thunder defensive group kept their cool on a number of occasions, with Daniel Alessi making a welcome return to the back four.

Thunder used the space out wide to make a number of attacking runs that threatened the Hume City goal, but lacked a quality ball into the area to create goal scoring opportunities.

A corner from Mersim Memeti landed centimetres from the goal line in the 35th minute but was cleared by the Hume City defence, in what was Thunder’s best chance at breaking the deadlock in the first 45 minutes.

Clark made a brilliant diving save early in the second half to keep the home side at bay, while Ben Djiba was substituted shortly after, having suffered an injury in a desperate act of defending.

Thunder was forced to defend right to the very end and Hume pressed for a winner deep into additional time, and managed to successfully do so to take a point back to George Andrews Reserve.

Thunder will host Manningham next Saturday night.