Melbourne Knights walked away empty-handed from Olympic Village on Sunday as Heidelberg scored a narrow 1-0 win to retake top spot.
A breathless first half with several chances for both sides yielded no goals, but Kaine Sheppard eventually found a way past the brilliant Chris May while the away side failed to breach Heidelberg’s defence.
Heidelberg started the match on top with most of the possession in the Knights’ half, but Andrew Marth’s men had the first shot on target after 15 minutes.
Stipo Andrijasevic tried placing a shot that bounced just in front of Griffin McMaster, but the goalkeeper reacted well to tip it wide of his near post.
The Knights should have taken the lead five minutes later with what would be their best opportunity of the match, as Marijan Cvitkovic bent a cross to the unmarked Andrew Barisic. The striker seemed likely to score, but couldn’t keep his header down from the edge of the six yard box.
Daniel Heffernan came close for Heidelberg in the 27th minute with a vicious strike that Chris May’s fingertips diverted just over the crossbar.
May denied Heffernan again minutes later, saving the low shot with his legs after the attacker had been played in behind.
The Knights custodian was busy and perhaps pulled off his best save of the match to somehow keep out a 30-yard missile from Nejc Kolman.
The home side had its best opportunity of the first half with five minutes remaining.
Reuben Way found himself one-on-one with May and he placed his shot past the goalkeeper, but it rebounded off the foot of the upright and the Knights defence scrambled to block the follow-up effort.
Heidelberg found the woodwork again when Sheppard’s header smacked the crossbar on the stroke of the interval.
The second half provided fewer clear chances, with Barisic and Way seeing their respective efforts miss the target before the deadlock was finally broken with 20 minutes remaining.
Way stood a cross up from the left wing and Sheppard leapt highest to bury his header from six yards.
The Knights pushed forward in search of an equaliser but couldn’t fashion any notable opportunities as Heidelberg sat back and defended strongly.
Sheppard nearly sealed it with a second goal in stoppage time, but May was again there to maintain the final one-goal margin.