By Craig MacKenzie
MORNINGTON’S title threepeat attempt got off to a flyer last Friday night with an impressive 2-0 away win over Casey Comets.
Adam Jamieson’s men bossed their fancied opponent from the outset, particularly in midfield, where Scottish duo Craig Smart and Chris Reid were dominant.
The confronting thought for others with eyes on the championship is that Mornington can only get stronger as the club maintains an interest in English striker Josh Hine from Salford City while another forward, Simon Mur, is back after two years in the UK and looking sharp in training.
Young Josh Valadon did a fine job deputising for injured captain Simon Webster and linking with Steve Elliott at the heart of Mornington’s defence.
The greatest challenge facing Jamieson is managing an embarrassment of riches as he oversees a squad with more depth than he has ever had during his nine-year reign at Dallas Brooks Park.
Despite nursing a hernia, an injury he is prepared to carry throughout the season, livewire striker Wayne Gordon remains a thorn in any opposition’s side due to his workrate and the fact that he can finish as well as create.
Fellow striker Ryan Paczkowski was immense against Comets, giving teammates further afield an option time and again, turning opponents inside out, scoring a goal and tracking back regularly in a man-of-the-match display.
Smart opened the scoring in the 28th minute when he caught Comets keeper Faraz Zenoozi too far off his line and sent Paczkowski’s lay-off over the head of the diminutive custodian and into the top far corner.
Two minutes into the second half Paczkowski took a touch with his back to goal then spun and struck a low left-foot shot inside the near post from just inside the area to make it 2-0.
Mornington started getting into a yellow card minefield and ended up with six players cautioned.
Gordon enjoys playing on the edge and he was testing the resolve of the match officials so Jamieson wisely took him off in the 76th minute and replaced him with Gino Defeo.
In the 87th minute Junsoo Park was robbed by Mornington substitute Scott Millar but the tall midfielder shot over from outside the area.
Comets’ Canadian import Allando Matheson had entered the fray not long after Paczkowski’s goal replacing Andy Stubley but the closest the powerfully built striker came to making his mark was in the 91st minute when he headed just wide.
It was the last goalmouth action of a contest that reaffirmed State 1 South-East’s status quo.
This weekend Mornington is at home to St Kilda who has set the local scene alight with five championships in a row.
Mornington captain Simon Webster is battling a glute injury but could be fit in time, Mur seems certain to make the matchday squad as does midfield import Matty Wade who is expected to return from a wedding in England.
St Kilda’s gun recruit is former Leeds United and Bury midfielder Zac Thompson. The club has also signed midfielder Brodie Paterson from Geelong and striker Steve McRae from Caulfield United Cobras.
A four-goal blitz in a superb 22-minute spell in the first half powered title aspirant Langwarrin to a 5-2 away win over Mooroolbark on Saturday night.
A rare Andy McIntyre goal, a double from Nabil Mozaffaruddin and a penalty conversion from Caleb Nicholes seemingly put Langy out of sight but Mooroolbark hit back before the break with goals from Sam Klepac to make it 4-2.
Connor Belger scored late in the second half and Langy cruised to the line.
Boris Ovcin returns from suspension for Saturday’s Lawton Park clash with Morwell Pegasus which has taken the scalps of Mornington (FFA Cup) and Malvern City in successive weeks.
Baxter celebrated its second derby success over arch rival Rosebud Heart at Baxter Park on Saturday running out a deserved 3-1 victor.
It was the first league game Heart had lost since 5 September 2015.
Baxter featured debutants Travis Ernsdoerfer, Liam Tinsley and Ben Meiklem while Owen Kilner was back in the starting line-up after a long lay-off due to a knee reconstruction.
Ernsdoerfer didn’t take long to make his mark and his cross from the right in the 5th minute was headed home by the unmarked Louis Griffiths at the far post to make it 1-0.
A long kick downfield from Baxter keeper Francis Beck in the 15th minute saw Griffith break clear only to send a firm low shot thudding into the near post.
In the 40th minute Heart goalscoring machine Dave Greening got into a rare one-on-one but Beck spread himself superbly to effect a close range smother.
Ernsdoerfer brought Baxter fans to their feet five minutes into the second half with a cracking drive from just outside the area that was turned wide by Heart keeper Sean Skelly in acrobatic fashion.
Heart failed to clear the resultant corner and Baxter substitute Dan Disseldorp struck a low shot into the far corner to make it 2-0.
Ernsdoerfer got his name on the scoresheet in the 60th minute after another excellent solo run.
The teenager squared the ball for a teammate whose shot was blocked but Ernsdoerfer followed up to tuck away the rebound.
Cory Osorio caught Beck off his line in the 77th minute but by then the result wasn’t in doubt.
“We weren’t at the races today. We thought we only had to turn up to win and we got punished for that mentality,” said Heart head coach Scott Morrison.
Aaron Young resumed training last week and will come straight into Heart’s matchday squad for Saturday’s trip to Reema Reserve to take on Endeavour United.
Heart’s Italian import Marco Cannella was stretchered off in the reserves and the extent of his knee injury wasn’t known as we went to press.
The downside of Baxter’s win was Mark Pagliarulo inventing another way to get sent off, this time by being substituted and engaging in a slanging match with the Heart bench which earned him a second caution and a mandatory red card.
Baxter gaffer Roy Kilner is continuing his pursuit of teenage midfielder Sam Gallagher from Kingston City but is unlikely to sign the talented midfielder before Saturday’s home game against Noble Park.
Two second half goals by Daniel Fotopoulos were enough for Mazenod to see off visitor Frankston Pines last weekend.
Pines were without Christopher L’Enclume and Cedric Permal who remain in limbo due to a dispute with their Mauritian clubs over their international clearance.
Pines defender Graham Hill was sent off in the 85th minute after receiving a second yellow card and will miss Saturday’s home game against Eltham Redbacks who defeated Peninsula Strikers 5-2.
Goals from Strikers’ star Aziz Bayeh saw the sides locked at 2-2 at the interval but Strikers were poor at the back and in midfield in the second half and paid the penalty.
Strikers’ boss Craig Lewis is determined to strengthen his squad.
Seaford United probably wished it didn’t travel to Anderson Park on Saturday as it was on the wrong end of a thrashing going down 7-1 to Doncaster Rovers.
Alex Roberts scored for Seaford.
Somerville Eagles marked their FFV league debut with a 2-0 loss at home to Old Mentonians.
This weekend’s games:
SATURDAY, 3pm: Mornington v St Kilda (Dallas Brooks Park), Langwarrin v Morwell Pegasus (Lawton Park), Peninsula Strikers v Berwick City (Centenary Park), Frankston Pines v Eltham Redbacks (Monterey Reserve), Dingley Stars v Skye Utd (Chadwick Reserve), Baxter v Noble Park (Baxter Park), Endeavour Utd v Rosebud Heart (Reema Reserve), Drouin Dragons v Somerville Eagles (Bellbird Park).
SATURDAY, 7pm: Heatherton Utd v Seaford Utd (Bosnia and Herzegovina Centre)