LOCAL derbies take centre stage this week as Frankston Pines, Skye United, Baxter and Seaford United prepare for battle.
The first of two huge derby showdowns takes place on Friday night under the Monterey Reserve lights when Frankston Pines hosts neighbouring Skye United.
These State 3 opponents still harbour hopes of mounting a promotion push especially fourth-placed Skye which goes into this clash on the back of a five-match winning streak.
Skye prides itself on its fitness and organisation and once it wins possession it can go forward quickly with pace on both flanks.
The set piece skills of Irish midfielder Mark O’Connor also pose a threat to Pines but the youngsters in the home side are quickly coming to terms with the demands of senior competition.
Cedric Benza, Christian Malgioglio, Kevin Brown, Connor McAndrews, Nick Simmons, Travis Ernsdoerfer and Alex Bevacqua all have come from the NPL under-20 environment and have been fast-tracked into senior competition.
On Friday they face their biggest test so far against an in-form opponent who has recently claimed the scalps of title favourite Collingwood City and promotion hopeful South Yarra.
Baxter hosts State 4 rival Seaford United on Saturday and Seaford player-coach Matty Morris-Thomas is available after serving a one-match suspension.
Seaford has the worst disciplinary record on the peninsula with five send-offs in eight matches but Morris-Thomas is adamant that the club doesn’t have a problem in this area.
“We have been unlucky with a few decisions going against us, but we will get better as the team gets used to the new culture Andy (Lancaster) and I are trying to implement,” he said.
No doubt that view will be tested in the white-hot cauldron of a derby battle.
Baxter’s Dan Disseldorp and Charlie Jones are unlikely to recover from hamstring injuries but the club is hopeful that striker Nathan Yole (back), midfielder Stuart McKenzie (knee) and defender Matt McDermott (knee) will play.
In NPL2 news Langwarrin is now third after Saturday’s 2-1 away win over Geelong.
The sides were locked at 0-0 at the interval but Johnny Kuol put Langy in front in the 67th minute only for Geelong captain Matt Townley to level three minutes later.
A clinical Jordan Templin finish restored the visitors’ lead in the 74th minute and when Geelong was reduced to 10 men after Paul Nicolescu was red carded in the 78th minute Langy was able to hold on for an important away victory.
Langy’s FFA Cup run ended at Lakeside Stadium last Wednesday night when it went down 2-1 to NPL heavyweight South Melbourne.
Langy’s second-string keeper Sermin Sadikovski walked out last week and signed with North Sunshine Eagles taking Langy head coach Scott Miller and assistant Jamie Skelly by surprise.
It’s understood that the Lawton Park outfit is looking at a number of signing options locally and overseas including a replacement keeper and the club may make some announcements shortly.
In other Langy news two 16-year-olds from the club’s underage NPL sides are trialling with Melbourne Victory this week.
Striker Keegan Myatt and defender Brodie Jones have been invited to trial for places in the A-League giant’s youth program.
In NPLW news Southern United lost 5-0 away to Bayside United on Saturday with under-19s coach Liam Drury doubling up due to the absence of senior coach Melissa Maizels who was attending the International Football Coaching Conference Australia on the Gold Coast.
The under-19s lost 2-1 with Kayla Aydin scoring for Southern, a Rhys McKenna goal gave the under-16s a 1-0 win while the under-14s lost 2-0.
In State 1 news Mornington surrendered a two-goal lead to go down 3-2 at home to St Kilda Celts on Saturday.
A superb free-kick from Sam Scott in the 11th minute made it 1-0 and Sammy Orritt capitalised on a poor goalkick from St Kilda keeper Arron Schille eight minutes later to make it 2-0.
A stunning long-range strike from St Kilda midfielder Darragh Ryan in the 41st minute reduced the deficit and the sides were back on even terms in the 76th minute when a static Mornington defence allowed tall central defender Calum Fleming to ghost in at the back post and sidefoot home a Trent Whitely cross from the right.
The killer blow was struck in the second minute of injury time when Mornington keeper Taylor Davidson was beaten in the race to contact a Whitely cross to the near post and Jack Butts headed in.
In State 2 news Peninsula Strikers won 4-1 away to Moorooolbark last weekend.
Strikers’ gaffer Danny Verdun is overseas on business and assistant Neil Standish was in charge.
Strikers went behind in the 17th minute when Sean Perrin scored against the run of play but Josh Calle equalised with the last kick of the first half when his shot was parried by Moorooolbark keeper Mark Namowicz and the rebound struck Calle and went in.
In the 68th minute Strikers’ midfielder Danny Brooks put second-half substitute Matt Harrington through and he finished well to make it 2-1.
Abraham Lokiru gave Strikers a two-goal cushion when he followed up a shot in the 80th minute and Harrington was on the end of a superb ball from another substitute, Lachie Mitchell, for a tap-in in the 84th minute.
In State 3 news Paulo Pinheiro stepped in as head coach of Frankston Pines in the absence of Kevin “Squizzy” Taylor who was at the Championship play-off at Wembley on Monday (yesterday) but will be back in Melbourne in time for Friday’s derby battle with Skye United.
Two second-half goals from CJ Hodgson gave Pines its first away win of the season when it defeated Elwood City 2-0 last Saturday.
The first came in the 60th minute when he looked offside as he broke clear onto a through ball, lobbed it over advancing Elwood keeper Ben Paris before slotting the ball into an unguarded goal.
Hodgson’s second came in the 80th minute when he lobbed Paris to secure all three points for Pines.
Skye defeated Diamond Valley United 3-0 at home last weekend.
A lacklustre first half saw Skye take the lead with a long range effort from striker Mitch Blake.
The home side had to wait until the 83rd minute to put this one to bed after Jason Nowakowski’s square ball found substitute Daniel Attard who finished from close range.
The points were sealed in the 88th minute when substitute Johnny Andrinopolous sent over a cross that picked out Mikey Turner who finished well.
In State 4 news Harry McCartney reports that Seaford and Springvale City drew 1-1 last weekend in a fixture rearranged last week for North Seaford Reserve.
Springvale went in front after 10 minutes when an Arnel Zahirovic cross from the right was struck home by Robbie Mortaruolo from close range.
In the 65th minute a cross from Adam Martin was deflected off Mitch Lander and despite a reflex save from Springvale keeper Yehya Dimassi, Kevin Derry got the final touch to make it 1-1.
Dimassi was outstanding and his man-of-the-match display earned the visitors a point.
In State 5 news Somerville Eagles had to settle for a share of the points at home after they were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Hampton Park United last weekend.
Mark Pagliarulo scored for Somerville.
An undermanned Aspendale Stingrays side went down 3-1 away to Casey Panthers last Saturday.
Aspendale midfielders Kieran Hughes and Sam Timuska-Carr and winger Kenan Nuhanovic were unavailable due to injury while striker Guil Ribeiro has returned to Berwick City.
Aspendale captain Peter Dimopoulos and Casey’s Dominic Navarra were both sent off in the 30th minute and right on half-time Leigh Gangemi gave the home side the lead.
Substitute Jordy Athanassiou equalised in the 75th minute but goals in the 76th and 79th minutes from Casey striker Makiadi Joao settled the issue.
Rosebud was on the end of an 8-0 thumping from runaway league leader Old Mentonians last weekend.
This week’s games:
FRIDAY, 8.30pm: Frankston Pines v Skye Utd (Monterey Reserve).
SATURDAY, 3pm: Langwarrin v Whittlesea Ranges (Lawton Park), Southern Utd v Alamein (Monterey Reserve; under-12s 9am, under-14s 10.10am, under-16s 11.30am, under-19s 1pm), Mornington v Nunawading City (Dallas Brooks Park), Baxter v Seaford Utd (Baxter Park), Somerville Eagles v Bunyip District (Tyabb Central Reserve), Aspendale Stingrays v Endeavour Hills Fire (Jack Grut Reserve), Hampton Park Utd v Rosebud (KM Reedy Reserve).
SUNDAY, 3pm: Peninsula Strikers v North Caulfield (Centenary Park).