The Melbourne Knights booked their place in the next round of the FFV Knockout Cup, after their 1-0 win away to Ballarat Red Devils at Trekardo Park.
A 75th penalty from Jake Naki? was enough to see the visitors through in what was a tight contest, as both sides had sustained periods of pressure, creating numerous chances in the process.
Knights coach Andrew Marth was pleased with the win, as well as giving a chance to some younger players within the squad to prove their wares, but the need to capitalise on chances remains a sticking point before next week’s VPL clash with Richmond.
“Our performance wasn’t as good as last week, but I expected Ballarat to be quite physical and work hard, which they did to their credit,” he said after the match.
“We had three clear cut chances in the first half and if you don’t score, heads are going to drop, and the opposition will grow in confidence.
“Looking at the first half we probably could have gone up two or three-nil and missed some easy chances, which has been the story of Melbourne Knights for the past couple of years, but I thought the younger boys that came into the game did a good job. Obviously, it’s a sector of the game that we need to improve on.
Ballarat made a contest of it as the game wore on after last year’s finalists dominated the opening exchanges, asking pressing questions of the Knights defence.
Louis Fenton, Jake Naki? and Jacob Colosimo all had good opportunities to put their side in front in the first half hour, but a combination of wastefulness and a lack of luck kept the scores even.
The hosts were heartened by the fact that they didn’t go down and gradually started to stamp their influence on the game, with William Georgiou and Sean Harding making the most of Ben Surey’s absence in the midfield.
Harding forced a save out of Aaron Romein late in the first half, as the Red Devils going into the break with the momentum, in a game played all too quickly for the Knights’ liking.
The Knights looked to direct the tempo with possession in the second, and slowly regained authority over the match.
After Naki?’s penalty, the Knights were in cruise control, with substitutes Yusuf Yusuf, Brandon Zezovski and Chris Talaji? all forging their way forward.
Yusuf in particular had a chance to double the Knights margin in the 80th, but after good interplay between Talaji? and Naki?, the latter failed to spot an unmarked Yusuf with goalkeeper approaching.
However, the one goal sufficed according to Naki?, who has now scored six in all competitions for the Knights out of eight matches.
“It wasn’t pretty. We had to scrap and fight out there but we won, and we’re through to the next stage so that’s all that matters,” he said.
“We didn’t punish them in the first half, and they came at us which we knew they would, but in the second half we got on top eventually. One was enough thankfully.”
The Knights’ next match, as mentioned, is next Sunday against an out-of-sorts Richmond side at Knights Stadium.
Both sides need a result to arrest any fears of falling into the drop zone. Kick-off is a 3 p.m.