Opinion

Month left to claim a spot

by
July 12, 2017

Shepparton South co-coach Joel Aitken has done an outstanding job of leading his side with season, with the Southerners sitting second on the ladder.

Goulburn Valley teams going in to the Bendigo Amateur league has revitalised soccer in this region, according to Adem Barolli.

It needed to happen and it did.

Club soccer in the Goulburn Valley was dying a rather quick death with each team playing each other three times, with three byes included in a 12-week fixture.

Only five clubs were left to compete in the defunct Goulburn North East competition before the merger with the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League arose last year.

However, the signs are positive just after the halfway mark of the inaugural BASL season.

Shepparton South, Shepparton United, Shepparton and Tatura are just four of 11 teams competing in the 22-round competition and all are reportedly thriving in the new concept.

Having moved on from the merry-go-round that was the poorly run GNE competition, the Goulburn Valley clubs are enjoying the opportunity of facing new opponents regularly.

And mind you, the away days are apparently pretty fun.

We have not experienced an away trip like these since the days of Yoogali and Hanwood.

Of course, we have had some teething problems in the opening half of the season, a few incidents that have marred the inaugural campaign, but with nine rounds to go before finals starts the league is set to come alight.

Eaglehawk, who has played one less game than everyone and is four points clear at the top, looks to be the team to beat this season.

The top side has the best offensive and defensive record after 11 games, having scored 60 goals and conceded just 14.

Last weekend six of the competition’s top seven sides went head-to-head in a round that was sure to shape the context on the season.

Only eight points separate second and seventh.

South, which scored late in injury time last week against arch rivals Shepparton, prevailed 3-2 to secure second position.

United drew with Strathdale 1-1 on Sunday, while Brent Matters’ Tatura was handed its biggest defeat of the season, losing 5-1 to Epsom.

Eaglehawk is a lock in for top spot, so with six clubs fighting it out for the remaining three positions, I am going to take a lot at how our Goulburn Valley-based clubs are expected to fare in the next month.

Shepparton South

Position: Second.

Points: 26.

Next four matches: Epsom (H), Tatura (A), Spring Gully (H), bye.

Co-coaches Joel Aitken and Nathan Redevski will welcome back Toby Ferguson and Sean Grant this weekend after they represented Australia in Brazil last weekend.

The duo will be a huge boost and some consistent football from Grant will be a key to South’s chances of cementing a top four spot.

Aitken and Jesse Brun have also been in sensational form this season, with duo scoring more than 30 goals combined.

South has won four of its past five games and it will be again tested this week in a true six-point clash against Epsom, who sits five points adrift in fourth.

Shepparton United

Position: Third.

Points: 25.

Next four matches: Eaglehawk (A), Colts United (H), Shepparton (A), Epsom (A).

Playing coach Roven Shaholli and Mohammed Al-Hilfi returned to the fold last week following their four-week suspension, help United to earn a 1-1 draw.

In addition, Kadhim Al-Hilfi, who spent seven weeks out of the game, is expected to feature more prominently in the next few weeks, boosting United’s chances of claiming wins.

Based at Central Avenue, United is a young side with plenty of dash and flair, but will the pressure of playing for a finals spot get to them?

Remember, they are the reigning GNE premiers, so they do know how do get the job done when it matters, so will a top-of-the-table clash this weekend spur Shaholli’s troops on?

Tatura

Position: Sixth.

Points: 18.

Next four matches: Spring Gully (H), Shepparton South (H), bye, Golden City (H).

A four-week suspension to Tariq Nikoi-Kotey and Oliver Goodwin did not help the Ibises’ chances of progressing up the table.

But with the duo returning a fortnight ago, Alex Goodwin back into the fold and Nathaniel Amartey proving his worth, Mathers’ side should challenge right down to the wire.

However, they need to beat the sides around them if that is to be the case.

Tatura has lost three games and drawn one game against sides inside the top seven during the past five weeks.

There biggest problem this season is goals and their lack of avenue to goal.

Young midfielder Tristan Zito (11) and Nikoi-Kotey (9) have scored scored two thirds of the Ibises’ goals this season, while Adam Rando is next best (three), but the utility is away on holidays at the moment.

Shepparton

Position: Seventh.

Points: 18.

Next four matches: Bye, Golden City (H), Shepparton United (H), Moama-Echuca (A).

Like most GV clubs this season, Dillon Shelley’s Reds have been hit with a number of injuries, meaning the likes of David Davkovski and company have had to step out of retirement to pull on the boots again.

At one point Shelley had 11 players out, yet slowly but surely the first year manager is regaining his troops.

Frank Mariner and Hayden Dealy will return to the fold after the bye this week, giving Shelley a little more time to evacuate the medical room.

Defensively the Reds have struggled, conceding 33 goals in just 12 games and if they are going to push they will need to improve their +2 goal difference.

With such a tight league, the difference between playing and not playing finals could rely upon goal difference.

Conclusion

The next four weeks will be critical and with South and United having the toughest month ahead, the Ibises and Reds have a golden opportunity to tighten the gap.

My pick is that Eaglehawk, United, Epsom and South will round out the top four this season, but with so long left in the season anything can happen in a week, let alone nine.

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