Typical Melbourne conditions saw rain and a southerly wind blow on a chilly evening as the Melbourne Knights travelled North East to Olympic Village to face off against third placed Heidelberg United FC. Not having dropped a single game thus far, Heidelberg were looking for their 6th straight win of the season. The task was up to the travelling Knights to cause one of their first upsets of the 2018 NPL season.
— Melbourne Knights FC (@MelbKnights) April 14, 2018
The opening minutes of the match saw the Bergers use their home ground advantage as they took off from the blocks a little quicker than Knights, with in-form keeper Harry Cakarun being called into action early on due to some early chances for the home side. Heidelberg were able to go one-nil up in the 20th minute when a cross from Heidelberg’s Les Doumbalis into the Knights third wasn’t dealt with promptly and found its way to former Knights forward Tom Cahill, who shoed it onto Adrian Zahra as he cut in towards the box. Zahra then passed it to teammate Reuben Way who had Cakarun beat and slotted into goal, giving the Bergers the only goal of the match.
Heidelberg continued to press for another chance on goal, but Tomislav Uskok, who played an outstanding centre-back for the match, continued to block Heidelberg’s chances. Much to Knights’ avail, Uskok made a number of important defensive stops that denied Heidelberg the ball in dangerous areas. The home side also clocked up the first booking of the match when a loose elbow from Steve Pace made contact with Shaun Timmins during a corner set piece.
The remaining 70 minutes saw the Melbourne Knights put up a valiant display trying to get an equalising goal to get back into the match. However, dark clouds were lurking in the 31st minute; when Knights’ Timmy Purcell clipped the heels of Alex Schiavo, who had just crossed the 18-yard line, resulting in a spot kick for the home side. Stepping up to the spot to take the kick was Heidelberg’s captain Luke Byles, who kept it low toward the left post, but a quick-thinking Cakarun launched himself in the same direction to keep the ball out of goal.
Just before half time, goal scorer Reuben Way received a booking for the home side for contact on Timmy Purcell. Not long after the referee blew the whistle, indicating half time.
The second half started with an important substitution for the Knights, which saw New Zealander Louis Fenton make his long-awaited return to competitive football after being sidelined for a knee injury after a nasty tackle sustained in round one.
With a goal under their belt, the home sides strategy was to hold on to their narrow margin by having all players migrate into defensive positions as soon the ball crossed into their half. Not long into the second half, ‘Berger Lewis Hall avoided a booking after a very contentious tackle from behind on Timmy Purcell, who went down clutching his ankles.
The best chance of the match for the Knights came in the 58th minute when captain Marijan Cvitkovic whipped in a ball toward the head of Tommy Uskok. The ball made clean contact but excruciatingly rebounded off the crossbar toward the ground and stayed out of goal, only to be cleared away by a panicked Tom Cahill.
Once regulation time had ended, the fourth official indicated an extra four minutes of injury time. The Knights, knowing that time was not on their side, made quick use of the ball and continued to press on toward goal. However, the final whistle blew and the Knights were unable to find the elusive equaliser at the end of the evening.
After the match, speaking to Star Weekly, captain Marijan Cvitkovic had this to say:
“We had a number of shots on target and some clear opportunities, but unfortunately couldn’t find the back of the net or find that equaliser,” he said.
“We definitely deserved something out of the game, but they’ve got a pretty experienced defence. They’ve been playing with each other for a number of years and once they got that goal they were happy to absorb pressure.”
The Knights return home next week to face neighbours Green Gully SC in round eight, who come in off the back of a win against Northcote City FC. Despite the result, a newly focused Knights squad displayed incredible determination and are showing promising signs for this week’s match against Green Gully, which will kick off at Knights Stadium at the slightly later time of 8.15pm.