JAMIE Skelly has nine games left to save Peninsula Strikers from relegation from State 2 South-East.
The revolving door at Centenary Park was spinning once more after Casey Comets shot themselves in the foot by sacking Skelly as head coach last week and inadvertently giving Strikers a lifeline.
Within hours of his sacking Skelly had agreed to join Strikers on the proviso that Trevor Johnston remain as president.
Johnston had resigned the previous night but the chance to rescue his club’s faltering season proved too good to resist and a back flip was duly performed.
Skelly became Strikers’ seventh coach in 12 months following in the footsteps of Craig Lewis, Billy Buchanan, Willie Raines, Andy O’Dell, Jamie Paterson and Lenny Greenan.
Skelly had previously coached Strikers in 2012 and was unveiled as new head coach last Tuesday and a player exodus from Comets was evident with Alex van Heerwarden, George Whiteoak, John Prescott and Liam Ryan joining Strikers with more players expected to arrive from Comets Stadium this week.
Skelly also lured his Comets assistant and former Strikers player Joe Donaghy to Centenary Park as well as long-time friend Ben Caffrey who had been assistant playing coach at Frankston Pines.
Strikers also completed the signing of goalkeeper Dylan Mery and winger Sayed Fatemi from NPL club Kingston City last week but Fatemi dislocated his shoulder at training and was sidelined last weekend.
But the Skelly effect wasn’t immediate as Strikers failed to overcome fellow relegation candidate Old Scotch who came away from Centenary Park on Saturday with a precious 1-0 win.
The pivotal moment in the contest came in the 11th minute when a slick counter-attack and a stunning finish caught Strikers on the hop.
Jonathan Beamish on the left played the ball inside to Sam Shearer whose first-time lay-off sent Kurt Emery clear and he saw that Mery had come too far off his line and struck the ball over his head and under the bar for the winner.
The extent of the Achilles injury that forced Whiteoak off at half-time will be determined this week but it forced a reshuffle with big Dave Selan who had struggled to contain Jack Branagan in the first half switching from left back and linking with van Heerwarden in defence.
It wasn’t long before van Heerwarden was sent up front and although Strikers pressured Old Scotch they couldn’t find a way past visiting keeper Hugh-James Thomas, who was excellent.
Thomas had smothered at the feet of Ryan Thompson in the first half but he should have been beaten in the 57th minute when Ryan blew a great chance to level by striking his shot across the keeper and just wide of the far post when well positioned.
Strikers are now nine points from safety at the foot of the table with the league’s worst goal difference but Prescott is available after being suspended for the Old Scotch match and is certain to bolster Strikers’ attacking options.
The scene is set for a stirring derby battle on Saturday when Strikers go to Monterey Reserve to face fellow State 2 side Frankston Pines who lost 4-0 away to title contender Mazenod last weekend.
A Lynton Pieterse double had Mazenod in control at half time and a Nick D’Angelo penalty and an Anthony Hammer strike sealed Pines’ fate.
In State 1 South-East news Mornington drew 2-2 at home against Beaumaris on Saturday.
Max Etheridge opened the scoring with a sweetly struck volley in the 3rd minute and doubled the lead in the 62nd minute after breaking clear onto a Sammy Orritt through ball.
But two goals in the last 15 minutes gave the visitors a point, the first a stunning Zach Lemke volley in the 75th minute and the second a close-range strike from Toby Newell 10 minutes later.
There were emotional scenes at Mornington training last Thursday night when veteran striker Wayne Gordon announced his departure.
“It shocked everyone because they never saw it coming but I just felt that with us playing catch-up again I thought it was better for everyone concerned if I moved on to a new challenge,” Gordon said.
“I could have gone to Strikers but after talking to Tony Saunders I decided to join Doveton.”
Gordon, 33, was in his sixth season at Dallas Brooks Park and has not ruled out a return.
In State 3 South-East news Skye United was thumped 5-0 away to title chasing Boroondara-Carey Eagles and needs to quickly arrest its mini slump if it is to have any chance of resurrecting its season.
The news from State 3 rival Seaford United was far more positive.
When Matt Morris-Thomas took over as senior coach at North Seaford Reserve in late May the club had just three points and relegation seemed a formality.
But under Morris-Thomas there’s been a revival and it continued with Saturday’s 3-1 home win over Collingwood City which has pushed Seaford onto nine points and given it hope.
The visitors had the home side on the back foot thanks to a Pat Makris goal in the 4th minute but Jeremy Schwellinger capitalised on a defensive error in the 30th minute to level.
Four minutes before the interval Dylan Waugh put Seaford ahead and good pressure by Waugh paid off in the 80th minute when Callum Richardson was at the back post for a tap-in.
In State 4 South news Baxter returned to the bottom of the league ladder after losing 2-1 away to Dandenong South on Saturday.
An injury time winner from Ali Demiri won it for the home side after Stuart McKenzie had equalised for Baxter in the 68th minute.
Meanwhile Somerville shocked title contender Chelsea with a 2-1 home win last weekend which keeps the local club’s State 5 South promotion push firmly on course.
Somerville started on the front foot with player-coach Dave Greening twice forcing decent saves out of Chelsea keeper Rhys Davies.
Chelsea took the lead against the run of play when a slick move in the 20th minute saw Zachary Luecke bury his chance from a tight angle.
Somerville then went close through Bjorn Kutschera and Joel Wade before Greening’s shot was cleared off the line only to fall to Louis Griffiths who made no mistake from close range in the 35th minute.
The contest was settled in the 83rd minute when a fierce inswinging corner from Damien Garcia flew into the top corner despite Davies getting a hand to it.
“We had a game plan today which the lads carried out superbly against a team that without question is one of the league’s best sides,” said Greening.
“The character and sheer hunger we have in that changing room at the moment is first class.”
Aspendale blew a two-goal lead at home to Endeavour Hills Fire in their State 5 South clash and had to settle for a 2-2 draw last weekend.
Domenic Paul put the home side ahead in the 12th minute and Dan Barbour increased the lead following a corner in the 72nd minute but goals from Eid Sarwari and substitute Kirobel Begashaw in the last 15 minutes denied the home side from claiming all three points.
Aspendale’s best were Paul, Alex Griffiths and Noah Berends.
In NPLW news Southern United lost last Saturday’s home clash with Senior NTC 6-0 while the under-19s lost 8-1 to Junior NTC with Briana Dias scoring for Southern.
The under-16s match was abandoned at half-time due to adverse weather conditions with Mini NTC leading 2-0.
Next weekend’s games:
FRIDAY, 8.30pm: Dandenong City v Langwarrin (Frank Holohan Soccer Complex), Richmond v Mornington (Kevin Bartlett Reserve).
SATURDAY 3pm: Frankston Pines v Peninsula Strikers (Monterey Reserve), Skye Utd v South Yarra (Skye Recreation Reserve), Bayside Argonauts v Seaford Utd (Shipston Reserve), Baxter v Dandenong Warriors (Baxter Park), Somerville Eagles v Casey Panthers (Somerville Secondary College), Aspendale bye.
SUNDAY 3.15pm: Southern Utd v Bayside Utd (Monterey Reserve, U12s 9am, U14s 10.15am, U16s 11.40am, U19s 1.15pm).