The Melbourne Knights claimed another scalp under Andrew Marth on Sunday afternoon, defeating league-leaders Dandenong Thunder 1-0 at Knights Stadium.
Jake Nakic’s lone goal was the difference between the two sides, with the Knights winning their fifth in the last six league matches, confirming their status as the form side of the competition.
The Thunder had the better of the first half, but Nakic’s well taken goal against the run of play, with half-time beckoning, gave the home side the edge in the second as the game opened up.
“A howling wind in the first half didn’t help us but the boys defended well. I thought if we went into half-time without conceding we were a very good chance at winning the game,” a pleased Andrew Marth said post-match.
“In the end it could have been two or three, but this win gives us confidence. All credit goes to the boys who are putting in at training and doing everything I ask of them on game day.”
In what looked to be a tight and hard-fought contest if their Round 3 encounter was anything to go by, the leaders took it to the Knights from the onset.
The first warning shot was fired in the 14th minute when Thunder captain Shane Rexhepi put through Luke Sherbon, who was playing in behind Ryan Filipovic, and his first-time effort cannoned off the crossbar.
Minutes later, Sherbon split the defence on the counter for an unmarked Nathaniel Foster, but his was a tame effort that went straight to the approaching Knights keeper in Aaron Romein.
Sean McIlroy headed Liam Kearney’s free kick just wide of the mark in the 40th minute, but with the few chances created in the half going Dandenong’s way, their failure to make it count lingered.
Keeping their shape for the most part against the wind and opposition, the Knights would have been happy to maintain parity at the half, but they hit the lead just before the half, with just their second attempt of the game.
With half-time beckoning, Tom Uskok played a well weighted pass to Jake Nakic, whose brilliant first touch allowed him to evade Andrew Mullett, before calmly finishing past Stuart Webster.
Matthew Theodore replaced a mostly quiet McIlroy in the second half, as the chances – and challenges – came thick and fast.
In the 67th minute, the Knights were gifted a golden opportunity as Bryan Bran lost the ball in the centre of defence.
Craig Elvin recovered quickly with Kayne Vincent bearing down on goal, holding him up enough for Stuart Webster to set himself, making a fine save.
Minutes later, the Thunder could have equalised after Iqbal Jawadi’s shot from the top of the box.
Liam Kearney should have done better with the follow-up from six yards, but Aaron Romein held firm.
Vincent had another two chances to ice the game, hitting the post in one instance after a brilliant pass from Nakic, but one was enough for the Knights in what was a clinical performance at both ends.
“The goal was a bit of a sucker punch. We only needed to put one away and I think we could have controlled the game. It was a poor goal to concede, because we were flat at the back,” Thunder coach Chris Taylor said after the match.
“We played into their hands. In all fairness to them they adapted to the conditions a bit better. Normally the Knights are renown for being a ball-playing side, and they didn’t do too much of that today.
“Full credit to them, because it caused us problems.”
The Knights will next Saturday look to continue their march up the ladder when they travel to John Cain Reserve, to face Northcote, while Dandenong will hope to arrest their poor run in form, with only one win from their last four, when they host Moreland Zebras.
– Ante Jukic
Melbourne Knights 1-0 Dandenong Thunder
Melbourne Knights: 1. Aaron ROMEIN, 3. Ryan FILIPOVIC, 4. Adam ZILIC, 6. Tomislav USKOK, 7. Shaun ROMEIN, 8. Craig SWEENEY, 10. Kayne VINCENT (22. Chris TALAJIC 90+’), 11. Anthony COLOSIMO, 16. Marijan CVITKOVIC (19. Yusuf YUSUF 63’), 23. Jake NAKIC (18. Brandon ZEZOVSKI 90+’), 24. Ben SUREY
Goals: Jake Nakic 45+’
Yellow Cards: Craig Sweeney 89’
Dandenong Thunder: 1. Stuart WEBSTER, 3. Andrew MULLETT, 5. Bryan BRAN, 6. Ross THOMPSON, 7. Liam KEARNEY, 11. Iqbal JAWADI, 13. Shane REXHEPI, 14. Craig ELVIN, 18. Sean MCILROY (8. Matthew Theodore 46’), 19. Nathaniel FOSTER-BOWEN (9. Veton KORCARI 76’), 20. Luke SHERBON
Yellow Cards: Andrew Mullett 54’