NPL R24 Preview – Melbourne Knights FC v Port Melbourne SC

Round 24 action returns to Knights stadium tomorrow night as the Knights face off against Port Melbourne SC. The Knights will be looking for a repeat victory after beating the Sharks 2-0 back in round 11. 

A quick note to all attending tomorrow nights match. The club would like to pay respect to the sad passing of clubman Leo Stolica by holding a one minutes silence before kick off. 

After Avondale dealt the Knights with a back-to-back losing result last week in Round 23, the Knights luckily avoided slipping further down the ladder, finishing the round in seventh place, on 29 points. With only three matches remaining, including this Friday’s fixture, the Knights will have to fight hard and get the results in their remaining games in order to be serious contenders for finals.

The Knights enter the round in seventh position, just one spot out of qualifying for finals football. Key games this fixture aside from tonight’s match are: Oakleigh Cannons v Hume City, Dandenong Thunder v Pascoe Vale and South Melbourne v Kingston City. All eight teams sit within eight points of each other, so the way the table appears at the beginning of the round will most likely be quite different to how it ends up going into Round 25. Needless to say, Knights need to dig their heels in at this late point in the season, and get a big win at home.

A lingering side effect from last week’s matchup is the suspension of key defensive midfielder Tomislav Uskok, who has been instrumental in setting up play from deep within the midfield, but also is one of the Knights’ leading goal scorers this season, sitting on eight goals and sharing the top spot with Nate Foster. The fact that a defensive midfielder can be just as potent upfront when compared to a dedicated forward shows the value Uskok can bring to the side.

The Knights are one of only five teams in this competition to have scored more than 40 goals this season, meaning that rather than relying on one or two players to convert, the scoring wealth is distributed amongst the team itself, with 13 different players rising up to the task of scoring. Conversely, defensive woes are the Knights biggest concern on the run towards finals football, as the side has also conceded the second most goals in this season, with 48 balls finding the back of the net against them. Finding a way to tighten up the defense is paramount to a successful outcome in this Friday’s fixture, as scoring goals doesn’t seem to be the sides problem.

The Sharks on the other hand sit inside the six in fifth position but are by no means out of the danger zone themselves. The last two rounds have seen the Sharks claim a single point, after losing to Pascoe Vale 2-1 in Round 22 and sharing the points with Northcote City 2-2 in the previous round. For the Sharks, Sam Smith (not to be confused with the performing artist) has been most prolific for his side, with eight goals.

The run towards finals football is a complicated one, as winning isn’t enough anymore with the right series of events needing to occur in order for the Knights to re-enter the six. Firstly, the Knights must win against the Sharks. Secondly, Oakleigh must lose to Hume to keep them at 32 points (equal to the Knights if they beat the Sharks). Thirdly, South Melbourne losing to Kingston City would alleviate some of the pressure from the Knights in the final two rounds, as would Dandenong Thunder losing to Pascoe Vale.

Provided the Knights can find a way to clean up the backline, it is extremely possible to bank an extra three points by games end and give their finals run a real boost.

After all, Sir Alex Furguson put it best with “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.”

Kick-off: 7:30pm

Venue: Knights Stadium

Forecast: 18°C, Cloudy, windy

Melbourne Knights FC squad: 2. Luke Jurcic, 3. Shaun Timmins 4. Ben Surey, 5. Milan Batur, 6. Tomislav Uskok, 7. Nate Foster, 9. Kym Harris, 10. Marijan Cvitkovic, 11. Nikola Jurkovic, 12. Anthony Dezic, 13. Ayden Brice, 14. Teeboy Kamara, 18. Mitchell Walsh, 19. Anthony Duzel, 20. Jordan Gifkins, 21. Andelo Svalina, 23. Tim Purcell, 37. AJ Inia

Ins: NA

Outs: 6 – Tomislav Uskok (suspension)

Unavailable: 1. Harry Cakarun, 17. Nicholas Jurcic (hamstring)

Referee: Perry Mur

Assistant Referee 1: Andrew Meimarakis

Assistant Referee 2: Di Huo

4th Official: Mate Zahtila

Assesor: David Rashleigh


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