By Craig MacKenzie
LANGWARRIN has thrown down the gauntlet to other title contenders by signing Scottish striker Liam Baxter from NPL outfit Goulburn Valley Suns.
And the State 1 South-East leader will strengthen further with the return of gun central defender Kieron Kenny who went back to England in March following a family bereavement.
Kenny is due to arrive in Melbourne tomorrow (Tuesday).
Baxter, 24, was on the books of Scottish Premier League outfit Inverness Caledonian Thistle until he was 17 when he decided to leave to get more first team football.
He played in the Highland League with Brora Rangers, Buckie Thistle and Forres Mechanics before arriving in Melbourne in January.
He had a topsy turvy spell with the Suns, scoring in his first game, being sent off in his second match and being involved in a serious car crash in Shepparton in February and suffering leg and pelvic bruising and lacerations which sidelined him for a few weeks.
Langy team manager Robert Mathieson senior drove to Shepparton last Thursday and took Baxter to his new home, a sponsor’s property in Langwarrin where his housemates are teammates Aaran Currie and Alex Metcalfe.
Kenny is held in high regard by Langy’s coaching staff and the former Macclesfield Town youth team captain has played in the Swedish Second Division with Gaellivare Malmberget.
Langy signed him from English club Congleton Town in the Hallmark Security League where he formed a formidable central defensive partnership with recent Langy import George Whiteoak.
When Langy’s veteran goal machine Caleb Nicholes returns from his Kokoda Trail trek next week he’ll be part of the strongest first team squad assembled at Lawton Park for years.
“It’s the sort of selection headache you like to have,” said long-serving Langy gaffer Gus Macleod.
Langy picked up what could prove to be a valuable away point on Saturday when it drew 0-0 with Warragul and remains the only unbeaten team in the league.
Mornington was in control for most of Saturday night’s 2-1 away win against bottom side Mooroolbark.
Mornington central defender Simon Webster opened the scoring in the 24th minute when the Barkers failed to deal with a corner presenting Webster with a tap-in.
The visitors went further ahead in the 59th minute courtesy of a back post header from livewire forward Wayne Gordon and Barkers striker Sam Klepac replied late in the game.
Mornington has lost two strikers from its senior squad in the space of a week as Michael Freeman has joined Gino Defeo in search of more game time.
Defeo is playing assistant coach to Kevin “Squizzy” Taylor at Westgate while Doveton and Knox are believed to be vying for Freeman’s signature.
Mornington boss Adam Jamieson remains in the hunt for new players.
Peninsula Strikers broke through for its first league win of the season on Saturday, a 2-0 derby triumph against Seaford United at North Seaford Reserve.
A superb Chris McKenna ball sent Aziz Bayeh through in the 15th minute but he shot straight at Seaford keeper Harrison Burgess.
Two minutes later a Danny Brooks free kick on the left was headed wide by Trevor Johnston.
In the 21st minute Seaford midfielder Paul McGuire sent Alex Roberts clear on the left and he played the ball across the face of goal but Troy Williams slid down and cleared.
The deadlock was broken in the 24th minute when Seaford failed to deal with Johnston’s long throw and Brooks hammered home the loose ball from close range.
Tom Natoli crossed from the right in the 36th minute and Roberts’ spectacular overhead kick sailed just wide.
A minute later the home team was staring down the barrel when a defensive blunder enabled Bayeh to skip clear on the right and his cutback was met by Alex Hopson who took a touch before striking a low shot that eluded Burgess to make it 2-0.
A weak shot by Mitch Lander in the 41st minute was the first time Seaford was on target but a minute later Lander forced Strikers’ custodian Colin McCormack into a fine low save.
Lander was thwarted by McCormack again in the second half as was Seaford teammate Tom Natoli while Roberts blew a gilt-edged chance by blasting high and wide from close range.
Strikers’ head coach Craig Lewis and assistant Billy Buchanan were sent off in the second half while Seaford remains anchored to the foot of the ladder with just one point.
Frankston Pines went down 3-0 away to Doveton on Saturday thanks to goals from Senahid Tokalic, Shane Tagliaferro and Nasir Mohammad.
Mauritian international Christopher L’Enclume remains sidelined as the wrangle over his international clearance continues.
Skye United maintained its perfect league record in State 3 South-East with a 3-1 away win over Riversdale last weekend.
Skye striker Nick Theodore opening the scoring within the first five minutes when he got on the end of a cross from English import Jacob Scotte-Hatherly.
This was followed up by a quickfire double from winger Jason Nowakowski.
In the 16th minute he ghosted in at the front post to head home from a Mark O’Connor cross, and then the two linked up again to make it 3-0 after just 20 minutes.
Riversdale’s Jon Foley-Donoghue pulled one back in the 48th minute after waltzing through the midfield and picking out the top left-hand corner to the despair of Skye goalkeeper Jonathon Crook.
Chances went begging for O’Connor and Wumjock Jock, however the damage was done and Skye held its nerve.
Skye can maintain its promotion momentum when it takes on Sandringham on Wednesday (5 May) at Skye Recreation Reserve in a revised round one fixture with the reserves kicking off at 6.30pm and the seniors at 8.30pm.
Three days later Skye again is at home when it hosts South Yarra in the annual John Ramsden commemorative match.
Baxter beat Keysborough 3-2 at Coomoora Reserve last weekend in a bruising State 4 South encounter.
Liam Kilner opened Baxter’s account in the 10th minute from close range and Ben Meiklum’s perseverance down the left in the 19th minute paid off when he squared the ball for Kilner to get his second by hammering the ball home from the edge of the area.
A clumsy Markus Oliphant challenge inside the area gave Keysborough a penalty in the 61st minute and Deni Tintor converted.
Mark Pagliarulo gave Baxter breathing space in the 65th minute when he finished from a tight angle after an excellent solo run.
Keysborough substitute Bruno Silva made it 3-2 in the 80th minute and the match ended on a sour note after a horror tackle on Baxter teenager Travis Ernsdoerfer who had to be carried off.
The striking partnership between Dave Greening and Michael Turner proved too much for Dandenong South on Saturday as Rosebud Heart powered to a 5-2 win at Fotheringham Reserve.
Turner’s off-the-ball run in the 8th minute dragged a defender wide and Blake Hicks put Greening through and he slotted it past Dandy South keeper Semir Zekirija.
The home side hit back through Ali Demiri in the 17th minute but three minutes later a Turner free kick nestled in the bottom corner to make it 2-1.
In the 33rd minute Zekirija failed to get to a ball to the back post and Greening’s volley made it 3-1.
A free kick from the left was headed home by Lindurim Tairi in the 56th minute to make it 3-2 but Heart’s two-goal cushion was restored in the 65th minute when Greening squared for a Turner tap-in.
Heart keeper Sean Skelly saved from the penalty spot with 10 minutes to go and in the 89th minute Turner sent Greening through only to be brought down inside the area.
Greening completed his hat-trick from the resultant penalty.
Heart midfielder Adam Poole will have surgery on Tuesday to repair a ruptured Achilles and Heart head coach Scott Morrison flies to Thailand next Saturday night to attend his sister’s wedding and will miss the club’s round 7 away clash with Endeavour Hills Fire.
Somerville Eagles gained a second point of the season with a 1-1 away draw with Pakenham United on Saturday despite having five senior players unavailable.
The State 5 South contest was scheduled as a Somerville home game but the council failed to cover the cricket pitch in time so the match was switched to IYU Recreation Reserve.
Pakenham’s Keegan Bloomfield was sent off for violent conduct in the 7th minute and Paul Walker put Somerville ahead in the 22nd minute after a Matty Roach cross which Pakenham keeper Allan Bateman failed to attack allowing Walker a simple tap-in.
A fine finish by Pakenham’s Ciri Mernica in the 80th minute earned his side a share of the spoils and Somerville’s James McKenzie was given a straight red in the 90th minute.
This weekend’s games:
SATURDAY, 3pm: Langwarrin v St Kilda (Lawton Park), Mornington v South Springvale (Dallas Brooks Park), Frankston Pines v Peninsula Strikers (Monterey Reserve), Seaford Utd v Mazenod (North Seaford Reserve), Skye Utd v South Yarra (Skye Recreation Reserve), Baxter v Endeavour Hills Fire (Baxter Reserve), Rosebud Heart v Keysborough (Truemans Road Recreation Reserve), Dandenong Warriors v Somerville Eagles (Lois Twohig Reserve).