Oakleigh Cannons secured second spot on the VPL ladder this weekend, defeating Melbourne Knights 2-1 at Knights Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
A measured second half performance from the Cannons helped them bounce back from their Round 7 loss to Hume City, setting up a top of the table clash with Dandenong Thunder next week, after goals from James Cumming and Hayden Doyle.
Post-game, Cannons coach Huss Skenderovic commended his side’s versatility, after injuries to Ramazan Tavsancioglu and Frankie Lagana, with a keen eye on Friday night against the league leaders.
“We have a lot of attacking options and at certain times we can bring on certain players. Tactically we also changed formation, which we’ve been adapting to so we’re not predictable, and it showed when we had the extra number in midfield, they really had no room to play.
“The Knights lost fluency because we made sure the midfield battle was won, and it’s good to have players wanting to put their hand up.”
The Knights should have been up in the first ten minutes, though, with two golden opportunities falling to Jake Nakic and Shayan Alinjead respectively.
Alinejad in particular should have put the hosts in front, after Nakic played a well-weighted ball over the defence.
With Cannons keeper Lewis Italiano coming off his line, Alinejad tried to chip the Cannons keeper with his first touch, only for the ball to finish centimetres wide of the post.
The Knights had the better part of possession and looked dangerous going forward, but they needed to apply that dominance where it counted.
After some handy work on the left wing from Louis Fenton in the 26th minute, his cutback was met by Alinejad, whose effort was well saved by Italiano, but there was the lingering feeling that the Knights needed to capitalise on their dominance.
This feeling was compounded when Oakleigh hit the lead after 29 minutes through James Cumming, who scored after the second straight blunder from Aaron Romein in two weeks.
Not too dissimilar to last week’s goal against South Melbourne, Romein was again left flapping at a lofted cross, and Cumming headed home at the far post, but the Knights quickly responded.
Louis Fenton replied immediately after the kick-off, coolly finishing a one-on-one after Jake Nakic played him through, with the Cannons defence completely falling asleep.
The Cannons came out a far more focused side after the interval, clamping down in the midfield and forcing the Knights into repeatedly losing the ball.
The Knights had a massive void in midfield after Josip Kozic was forced off in the first half, but Oakleigh also had their captain Frankie Lagana make his way to the substitute’s bench due to injury, with attacker Jesse Krncevic replacing him in the 50th minute.
The tactical change proved to turn the match, with Krncevic providing some much needed vitality going forward, as well as playing a part in the winning goal.
Krncevic’s presence led to a miscommunication between Tomislav Uskok and Romein, forcing a spill that Hayden Doyle duly punished, rifling low into the net in the 58th for the crucial lead.
With the lead, the Cannons took the sting out of the game, leaving Knights coach Paul Magdic to rue further lapses in defensive concentration.
“I mentioned at the South game, that that’s the performance I seek every week, and we’re just not getting that. There’s no team that has totally killed us in my opinion, and walked off the park saying they’ve ripped Melbourne Knights apart.
“The most disappointing thing is I know the team has got it in them, but the pressure builds each week.”
The Knights now have another tough match this Saturday afternoon, traveling to Green Gully Reserve to take on the titleholders. For further fixture information, simply follow the links on the FFV website.
Melbourne Knights 1-2 Oakleigh Cannons