Only two sides remain perfect in NPL Victoria as Avondale and Heidelberg United won yet again while Bentleigh Greens finally dropped points – albeit only two of them – after being held to a 1-1 draw with South Melbourne.
At the other end of the table, FC Bulleen Lions put a horror week behind them to finally feature on the winner’s list.
Avondale continue to go where they have never gone before, pushing their club-record winning streak to seven with a comfortable 2-0 win over the Oakleigh Cannons at Paisley Park on Friday night.
It was Liam Boland who opened the scoring for the Avengers in the 26th minute, but the credit for the goal must go to Kaine Sheppard, who charged down a sloppy attempted clearance by Cannons goalkeeper John Honos and lobbed the ball for Boland to head into the empty net.
Sheppard’s hustle would be rewarded with a goal of his own, his league-leading eighth of the season, turning in a Joey Katabian cross at the far post in the 61st minute to seal the win for the Avondale.
Dandenong Thunder grabbed their second win of the season in Friday night’s other contest, defeating Port Melbourne 3-1 at JL Murphy Reserve.
The win marked the re-emergence of Brandon Barnes’ goalscoring touch with the Thunder talisman, who scored 76 times in his previous two seasons in the NPL2, netting his first goals of the season with an inspiring hat-trick.
Barnes struck for the Thunder in the fourth, 52nd and 55th minutes with the Sharks unable to turn Yuta Konagaya’s 62nd-minute response into an unlikely comeback.
Green Gully stretched their unbeaten run to six on Saturday afternoon, racing to a half time 4-0 lead en route to defeating Northcote City 4-2.
Joshua Barresi had Gully ahead after only eight minutes of play at John Cain Memorial Park, with Jonathan Bounas adding a second only six minutes later.
Alexander Caniglia curled an effort in from close-range in the 29th minute to continue the pile-on, before George Lambadaridis poked the ball home from a set piece in the 37th minute to make it 4-0.
Lampros Honos got one back for Northcote from the penalty spot in the 77th minute and Juan Gallego Vera got another one back for Hercules in the 94th to make the scoreline a little more respectable, but ultimately the day well and truly belonged to Gully.
Heidelberg continued their perfect start to the season in Saturday’s other fixture, defeating the Melbourne Knights 1-0 at Olympic Village.
Reuben Way grabbed the sole goal of the game for Heidelberg, getting on the end of a perfectly chipped ball from Adrian Zahra in the 29th minute to send the home fans, watching their beloved Alexandros at home for the first time this season, into raptures.
Croatia pushed hard for an equaliser in the second half. Bergers goalkeeper Christopher Theodoridis was forced to dive at full stretch to deny them in the 52nd minute and Nate Foster hit the crossbar after getting on the end of a Marijan Cvitkovic corner in the 57th minute, but were unable to break through the resolute United defence.
The result sees Heidelberg’s undefeated start to the season stretch to six, with the club last tasting defeat in a competitive fixture in the 2017 NPL grand final, 10 games ago.
South ended their Grand Prix-enforced exodus in the only game played on Sunday, doing enough to hold off a fast-finishing Bentleigh Greens and earn a 1-1 draw.
The Greens’ attention will now turn to Friday night, as John Anastasiadis’ side prepares for a visit from fellow contenders Heidelberg, while South’s thoughts will shift to extracting some measure of revenge for their early FFA Cup exit when they head to ABD Stadium to take on Hume City on Saturday.
Monday night saw two fixtures played, with Pascoe Vale earning a much-needed 1-0 over Kingston City to stay in touch with the league leaders and Bulleen finally earning their first win of the season with a 2-0 victory over Hume City.
Paco and Kingston’s tie seemed destined to end in a 0-0 stalemate, with Paco having the best of play but both struggling to create many clear chances heading into the game’s final 15 minutes.
Stephen Hatzikourtis would prove the late hero for Paco, however, pouncing on the ball after Kingston keeper Kile Kennedy had deflected away a Davey van‘t Schip shot before striking from an acute angle to earn his side all three points.
At the Veneto Club, Bulleen put a horror week that had seen them lose 5-1 to Port Melbourne and dismiss head coach Aaron Healey behind them, earning their first three points of the season with two late goals against Hume at the Veneto Club.
Luke Gallo grabbed the first for the Lions, receiving a pass from Paul Scopelliti deep in his own half before embarking on a commanding counter-attacking run that took him to the edge of the Hume area. He then launched a thunderous right-footed effort into the top corner to complete the move and give his side the 1-0 lead.
Lewis Hawke then sealed it late for the Lions, somehow threading the ball between Hume gloveman Michael Weier and his near post in the 91st minute to seal the result and drag his side off the bottom on the NPL Victoria table, with that dubious honour now resting with Northcote City based on goal difference.