A match-winning double from off-season recruit Alun Webb – include a classy second-half volley - has delivered Melbourne Knights a winning return to Knights Stadium in our NPL Game of the Week.
The Knights made it two wins on the trot to start the NPL Victoria season as they saw off a rugged Dandenong Thunder 2-1 in an often niggly contest on Friday night.
Lured from NPL South Australia’s Raiders SC in the summer, Webb struck early in each half in a match-winning performance for the hosts as they posted their first NPL Victoria win over the Thunder since 2015.
A late goal from substitute Josh Meaker offered the Thunder consolation, before the Knights defence steadied to see out the result.
QUEENSLAND: NPL 2021 readies for kick-off in the Sunshine State
NEW SOUTH WALES: United 58 tackle Sky Blues in NPL NSW Round 2
Buoyed by the first home match in nearly a year, and seeking to follow up last week’s season opening away win over Port Melbourne, the Knights started the contest brightly in front of their vocal supporters.
It took Steve Bebic’s side only eight minutes to make their impact on the scoreboard - Webb netting with a poachers’ finish amidst a goal mouth scramble at close range after Mohammed Sumaoro's initial strike was blocked on the line.
Thunder sought a near immediate reply but crafty Argentinian Nahuel Bonada and captain Harry Ascroft both failed to find the target with efforts either side of the quarter hour.
Despite the clear cut chances drying up the Thunder begun to grind on the Knights defence that sat ever deeper to protect their early advantage.
As the tension mounted so did the foul count as half hour passed, with the sides sharing in four yellow cards in the opening stanza, while play was repeatedly halted following off the ball incidents.
But despite the warnings the defenders continued to hold sway til the break, with Harley Orr’s headed effort from an offside position for Thunder the only further chance of note for the half.
Following the restart, the Knights again provided the more immediate threat - Caleb Mikulic finding the side-netting just minutes from kick-off - and soon doubled their lead on the 54th minute as Webb struck again.
This time the Welshman delivered a stunning lobbed finish on the volley from a difficult angle – his shot catching out Thunder keeper Kane Runge then bouncing off both posts before crossing the goal line.
By contrast, the Thunder remained frustrated in reply as Mersim Memeti steered a shot straight at Knights keeper Thomas Manos and Giuseppe Marafioti dragged his best chance of the match wide as the hour approached.
Despite the close calls the Knights defence was unfazed and soon were back on top as Kiwi defender Trevor Zwetsloot increasingly played the spoiler at the back.
With the contest approaching the final quarter hour, the Knights missed the strong chances to put the result to bed as James McGarry fired straight at Runge and Anthony Duzel fired over the bar.
Still, the Knights appeared to be cruising to a second straight clean sheet before the Thunder finally found their lifeline late in the piece - Meaker pouncing in the 88th minute to tuck away a deflected free-kick at close range.
However, ultimately it proved too little too late for the Thunder as they continue to search for their first win of the NPL Victoria campaign following their opening round draw with local rivals Dandenong City.
Feature image courtesy of NPL Victoria