What Melbournian doesn’t love a Derby? As soon as the fixture for a new season comes out – the fixtures against South Melbourne – whether home or away – are matches that fans of both clubs (and even neutrals) pencil into their diaries as one of the great spectacles in the yearly Victorian soccer calendar.
And the time has arrived for the first derby of 2019 – after seven rounds of football, the Knights sit lofty on the table in third position with 15 points in the bank. Their impressive run into season 2019 has been marked with solid performances in front of goal, with 14 goals in their last seven appearances (2 goals/game). With only two recorded losses thus far, the Knights have hit the ground running this week in preparation for one of the biggest fixtures of the season.
The Knights enter the contest after an unfortunate 2-1 away loss to league leaders Avondale FC. Despite not being able to secure any of the points on offer, the Knights showed a resounding spirit throughout the match after a red card to Tomislav Uskok at the end of the first half meant that Colina’s men would need to match it for 45 minutes with one of the most dangerous sides in the competition.
Leading up to the match, the squad is squarely focused on the task at hand. Speaking to Knights Media, Colina added;
“Basically, we reflected and took the positives out of the game, although frustrating and disappointing to not come away with anything from the game, nevertheless we learn and move on, nothing we can do other than refocus on the upcoming game.”
“The boys have worked hard as always and tried to not get caught up in the derby fanfare and stay focused on winning a game of football, and we are keen to get back in the winners circle again. We are all keen to redeem ourselves.”
Some key standouts of late for the Knights have been Hamish Watson, Gian Albano and Harry Cakarun, with Ayden Brice and Anthony Duzel also impressing. Gian Albano, for the second week in a row, found himself on the scoresheet for the Knights, while Ayden Brice, who was having perhaps one of his best games in a Knights shirt, bossed at the back last week against the Avengers. In goals, Harry Cakarun has impressed between the sticks in 2019, with two clean sheets to his name. Unfortunately for the Knights, midfield maestro Tomislav Uskok will serve out a one match ban after receiving two yellow cards.
South Melbourne on the other hand sit seven teams away from the Knights in 11th position. After finishing in 10th place on the ladder last year, one place under the Knights, South would undoubtedly be disappointed with their lacklustre start to 2019.
With only two wins recorded thus far, both against low placed teams, South have only managed to score five past opposition keepers. Of these five scored, there have been four different scorers, with new signing from Northcote Gerrie Sylaidos the only player with more than one goal to his name. The side has also been leaky at the back, conceding 12 goals thus far.
With four losses under their belt, the worst of which was a drubbing at the hands of Avondale FC (4-0 loss) head coach Con Tangalakis and the club cut ties from each other late on Monday night. One can only speculate that the situation came to pass after pressure began to mount on the position – even though there were positive signs against Green Gully last weekend where South was able to manage a draw. In Tangalakis’ place, his Assistant Coach Esteban Quintas has been tasked with the job of turning South’s fortunes around for the remainder of season 2019 and his first match in charge will be against the Knights on Friday night.
South will be without key forward Billy Konstandinidis who signed from Greece at the beginning of the year. The Melbourne-born Konstandinidis has played most of his career in Greece and was touted as the man to fill the shoes of Milos Lujic who moved onto Oakleigh Cannons in the offseason. Unfortunately for Konstandinidis and South – the striker was handed a lengthy suspension for an off the ball altercation against Pascoe Vale and misses the match against the Knights.
Regardless of South’s position on the table, which players are in or out and the coaching change – on derby day all of these factors go out the window as both teams try and use the emotions of the importance of the fixture and the support from the terraces to propel their respective campaigns. That’s the beauty of the derby. For the last few seasons the Knights have been where South Melbourne currently sits. No doubt the South Melbourne camp wants to use this fixture as the turning point of their season and with a forward line capable of causing headaches, regardless of current form will look to do just that.
Having taken that all into account – the Knights find themselves in an unfamiliar situation where the roles of the last few seasons have been reversed and that the three points on offer in the match are more important in the greater scheme of things than the derby bragging rights.
Since 2010, the clubs have competed in 18 matches to date with South having the more favourable win percentage. Of the 18 matches, the Knights have a win/draw/loss split of 5/2/11. Over the last five matches, the Knights have only won one of those, that being their home Derby of 2018.
2018 NPL: South Melbourne 5 – 1 Melbourne Knights
2018 NPL: Melbourne Knights 3 – 2 South Melbourne
2018 NPL: Melbourne Knights 0 – 2 South Melbourne
2018 NPL: South Melbourne 2 – 0 Melbourne Knights
2018 NPL: South Melbourne 2 – 1 Melbourne Knights
With every derby comes the chance for each club to write another piece of history – and there have been some memorable matches between the two clubs. Despite the statistics not favouring the Knights in this case – numbers only ever exist on paper. The task is up to the Knights to put last week’s loss to bed and continue their run of form into Fridays match. With a heavy home crowd expected to show up to Knights Stadium to cheer the side onto victory, the club has also invited a plethora of former players from all eras to reconnect with the club and witness what we all hope is a memorable and enjoyable night for all.
As always, the clubrooms are open early for dinner inside and out – along with live music and the opening of the new toddler’s synthetic ground next to the new playground. Bring along your kids – teach them what this club means and pass on the love of the Knights to the next generation.
Melbourne Knights FC Squad:
1.Harry Cakarun, 2. Luke Jurcic, 4. Tom Podaridis, 5. Ayden Brice, 6. Tomislav Uskok, 8. Gian Albano, 9. Hamish Watson, 10. Marijan Cvitkovic, 11. Nikola Jurkovic, 12. Corey Sewell, 13. Ivan Grgic, 14. AJ Inia, 15. Adrian Tardio, 16. Marcelo De La Plaza, 17. Daniel Visevic, 19. Anthony Duzel, 20. Jordan Gifkins, 25. Atila Ofli, 27. Joseph Franjic.
South Melbourne FC Squad:
1. Nikola Roganovic, 2. Perry Lambropoulos, 3. Kristian Konstantinidis, 4. Luke Adams, 5. Jake Marshall, 7. Giuseppe Marafioti, 8. Dean Bereveskos, 9. Vasilios Konstantinidis, 10. Marcus Schroen, 11. Bradley Norton, 12. Nicholas Krousoratis, 13. Giordano Marafioti, 14. George Howard, 15. Ben Djiba, 17. Ethan Gage, 18. Konstantinos Stratomitros, 20. Zachary Bates, 27. Leigh Minopoulos, 45. Gerrie Sylaidos
Round 8 Match Details
Date: Friday 5th April 2019
Venue: Knights Stadium
Match Official: Lazaros Pantelidis
Forecast at 7:45pm: 27 degrees, most sunny, winds building