Southern Stars pulled off the proverbial smash and grab on Saturday night, defeating Melbourne Knights 2-1 at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex.
Luke Fitzpatrick’s header deep into stoppage time sealed the three points for the Stars against a ten-man Melbourne Knights side who were unlucky not to come away with at least a point.
Stars’ coach Dean Hennessy, given his side was on the back foot for most of the match, credited them for staying the course for the 90 minutes.
“I think if it stays 11 vs. 11, if I’m honest a draw would have been a fair result. I think the sending off had a massive impact in the last 15 minutes, on a heavy pitch,” he said post-game.
The Stars, already building a reputation for their pluckiness, stayed true to their knack to pick up points against the odds.
“Melbourne Knights have turned their season around since Andrew Marth took over, but we’re unbeaten in four now and coming into this season I don’t think anyone gave us a prayer.
“We set a target and we’re slightly ahead of that target. To pick up 15 points is massive and I’m really proud of the boys who’ve worked their socks off.”
The Stars formed the first attempt of the game twelve minutes in, beating Aaron Romein with his low-driven effort, only to be denied by the post.
The Knights held the majority of possession and looked much more assured with the ball, capitalising in the 17th minute.
Shayan Alinejad picked out the advancing Craig Sweeney with a lovely cross-field pass, and Sweeney’s brilliant first touch allowed him to pick his spot and give the Knights the lead.
The Stars responded in quick fashion, though, with Karl Brown finding an open Mark Leech to round Aaron Romein in the 19th minute, as the Knights looked to be waiting for an offside call.
With a game very much tightened up after the equaliser, Jake Nakic had a chance to send the Knights back into the lead after he was played through by Jacob Colosimo in the 35th, but his attempt was driven straight at Frazer Siddall.
Tom Uskok had his header cleared from the line in the ensuing corner as the Knights started to dominate, but the Stars were more than in the contest, with scores locked at 1-1 at the half time break.
There were two penalty shouts early in the second half for the Stars, but in the one legitimate shout, Craig Sweeney arguably got away with one after pulling Yannis Galanos’ shirt as the last man.
Stars’ keeper Frazer Siddall kept his side in the match midway through the second, denying substitutes Yusuf Yusuf and Brandon Zezovski with some fine stops.
His effort to keep Zezovski’s shot out in particular was inspirational, producing a wonderful reflex save for what looked to have been a certain goal.
The home side, though, didn’t really create much at the other end and were given a lifeline in the 76th through Ben Surey’s dismissal.
In what was set to be a 1-1 draw after Aaron Romein pulled off some heroics of his own, keeping out Galanos and Leech with time winding down, Fitzpatrick headed home from a free kick to hand his side a valuable three points.
Knights coach Andrew Marth, however happy he was with how his own players performed, was left to rue his first loss this season as Knights coach due to what he thought was poor officiating.
“The red card didn’t even change the game, but the first Stars goal was offside by a good metre. It was funny because they didn’t celebrate the goal, and started when they realised it was ruled a goal,” he said.
“Without a doubt we were the better side. The boys’ endeavour in the second half was exactly what I asked for. Stars were kicking it out into touch like they were playing rugby, and it was embarrassing as a spectacle. If we lost being totally outplayed, I’d put my hand up, but it was directly the opposite.”
Now at the halfway point of the season, the Stars face a tough task to make it five games unbeaten at home to Dandenong Thunder next Saturday, while the Knights will hope to bounce back away to Hume City on Friday night.
Southern Stars 2-1 Melbourne Knights
Southern Stars line-up: 1. Frazer SIDDALL, 2. Darragh RYAN, 4. John FITZGERALD, 5. Luke FITZPATRICK, 6. Alan MULCAHY, 10. Karl BROWN (19. Liam MCCORMACK 68’), 11. Yannis GALANOS, 12. David STIRTON, 16. Alan KEARNEY, 22. Mark LEECH. 24. Kieren FITZGERALD
Goals: Leech 19’, Fitzpatrick 90+’
Yellow Cards: Stirton 26’, Kearney 31’, Mulcahy 37’, Fitzgerald 72’
Melbourne Knights: 1. Aaron ROMEIN, 3. Ryan FILIPOVIC, 4. Adam ZILIC, 6. Tomislav USKOK, 7. Shaun ROMEIN (19. Yusuf YUSUF 46’), 8. Craig SWEENEY, 9. Jacob COLOSIMO (18. Brandon ZEZOVSKI 63’), Anthony COLOSIMO, 12. Shayan ALINEJAD (16. Marijan CVITKOVIC), 23. Jake NAKIC, 24. Ben SUREY
Goals: Sweeney 17’
Yellow Cards: Surey 34’
Red Cards: Surey 76’