PS4 NPL Victoria Preview: Round 11

Three big Friday night encounters kick off Round 11 of PlayStation 4 NPL Victoria.

Port Melbourne Sharks v South Melbourne 
8.15pm, Friday, May 1, 2015
JL Murphy Reserve, Port Melbourne
Twitter: Live updates @nplvictoria, ‪#‎PMvSM ‪#‎PS4NPLVIC


The one thing that's sure about Port Melbourne is that it is consistently inconsistent. From a side that comfortably defeated Hume City in Round 1, and destroyed Oakleigh Cannons in Round 6, it has lost to both Dandenong Thunder and Northcote City.

What's troubling about Port Melbourne's form is that it hasn't scored a goal in three weeks. But in the fortnight leading up to their scoreless run, it scored eight goals in two games. How tough of a task South Melbourne faces on Friday night rests firmly on which Port Melbourne turns up to JL Murphy Reserve.

This is a South Melbourne team in fine form; still undefeated so far in 2015, and it comes into this game with four wins from its last five matches. But South has had an interesting week in the media; Andy Brennan has confirmed he will be leaving mid-season to join A-League side Newcastle Jets. Whether that impacts his form, and South's, could be a telling factor in deciding Friday night's game.


Pascoe Vale v Green Gully 
8.30pm, Friday, May 1, 2015
CB Smith Reserve, Fawkner
Twitter: Live updates @nplvictoria, ‪#‎PVvGG #PS4NPLVIC


Despite suffering four losses in a row, Green Gully still sits in ninth spot and six points out of the relegation zone. But if Gully's form continues, it could find itself in the midst of a relegation dogfight.

Gully sits just a point above Pascoe Vale in the table, with Paco looking like it has potential to go higher. Despite losing to South Melbourne last week, Pascoe Vale was stoic in defence; it held firm and kept South to just a 1-0 win. It had its chances to jag a goal on the break, but South Melbourne's defence showed why it was the best in the league and has only conceded five goals.

But Paco's strikers shouldn't have such problems on Friday night, facing a Green Gully defence that has conceded 24 goals. Defence has been a problematic area for Bob Stojcevski, only managing to keep one clean sheet so far this season. If Gully is to turn its season around, it'll need to start on Friday night, and start from the back.


Oakleigh Cannons v Dandenong Thunder 
8.30pm, Friday, May 1, 2015
Jack Edwards Reserve, Oakleigh
Twitter: Live updates @nplvictoria, #OCvDT #PS4NPLVIC


New Oakleigh coach Arthur Papas is one from one. His 0-2 away win over North Geelong Warriors was his first game in charge after taking over from Miron Bleiberg last week.

It's been a tough start to the season for Oakleigh, but the Cannons are only six points adrift from a spot in the finals; with a game in hand, that could be reduced to just three. But if Papas' men are to have any chance of saving their season, they'll need to back up from the win over the bottom-placed Warriors against a resurgent Dandenong Thunder.

Stuart Munro's young side has been a mixed bag this year. But last week's 6-1 thrashing of Northcote City could have proved a coming-of-age for the youngsters, with the revelations of Yusuf Ahmed and Jarod Blackbourn particularly positive for the Thunder.

Whether the youngsters can back up their performances again will be a telling factor in Friday night's match.


Avondale FC v Bentleigh Greens 
3.00pm, Saturday, May 2, 2015
Avondale Heights Reserve, Avondale Heights
Twitter: Live updates @nplvictoria, #AFCvBG #PS4NPLVIC


There'll be no complacency from Avondale FC this week, after Anthony Barbieri's boys threw away two points at the death in their last match against Werribee City. After being 2-1 up for most of the second half, it was a 97th minute equaliser that cost Avondale sixth spot.

Despite this, it has been a solid month for Saturday's hosts with 10 points out of a possible 15 in their last five games. With a Westfield FFA Cup match on Tuesday, Barbieri will have some tough choices to make; whether to rest players for next week's match against Port Melbourne, or to field a full strength side and risk injuries and fatigue.

Bentleigh will have no such dilemmas, with John Anastasiadis' focus firmly directed on the league. The Greens are still undefeated this season and sit in third spot, four points below ladder leaders Heidelberg with a game in hand. It will be interesting to see how Anastasiadis' side adapts to playing on a smaller pitch at Doyle St than they're used to.

How in-form Avondale defender Michele Crazia and his fellow back four deal with the pace of Matt Thurtell and Chris Lucas will be telling.


North Geelong Warriors v Heidelberg United 
3.00pm, Saturday, May 2, 2015
Elcho Park, Lara
Twitter: Live updates @nplvictoria, ‪#‎NGWvHU #PS4NPLVIC


Two sides with completely opposite form books at the moment. Heidelberg sits on top of the table with a solid 1-0 win over fellow challengers Melbourne Knights last week. North Geelong is rock-bottom, with a 0-2 loss to fellow battlers Oakleigh Cannons. All signs are pointing to a big win for Heidelberg, but North Geelong has the potential to push teams all the way.

Aside from the Warriors' big win against Green Gully, they're yet to pick up a point. But they've has come close, particularly with narrow losses to Pascoe Vale and Avondale FC. But the problem Micky Colina will have is instilling the belief in his boys, particularly against a dangerous Heidelberg side.

George Katsakis' boys have six wins on the trot, with their only loss coming almost two months ago against Bentleigh Greens. Three weeks ago, it showed it can annihilate sides with an 8-2 win over Green Gully, but the goals have dried up over the last two weeks with 1-0 wins over Oakleigh and Melbourne Knights.

Regardless, striker Kaine Sheppard is in fine form, and will be a handful for a North Geelong side that's conceded the second most goals so far this season.


Northcote City v Werribee City 
3.00pm, Saturday, May 2, 2015
John Cain Memorial Park, Northcote
Twitter: Live updates @nplvictoria, ‪#‎NCvWC #PS4NPLVIC


Will this be the week that Werribee gets its first win? The Bees travel to John Cain to take on a Northcote side that suffered an agonising 6-1 defeat to Dandenong Thunder. The big loss wasn't Northcote's first of the season, having lost 5-0 to Hume City about a month ago.

But aside from the two big losses, Saturday's hosts have shown promise. Northcote has shown it can beat fellow mid-table sides, having defeated Pascoe Vale and Port Melbourne, who both sit above it on the ladder. While Werribee hasn't won a game yet, it has drawn five - more than any other in the competition.

If it had turned three of those five draws into wins, it would be sitting on 11 points and safely out of the relegation zone. But Nino Ragusa's men are still searching for that elusive first win. They'll need to get on the front foot early if they want it, and not be searching for an equaliser in the 97th minute like they were last week against Avondale FC.


Hume City v Melbourne Knights
7.00pm Saturday, May 2, 2015
ABD Stadium, Valley Park, Broadmeadows
Twitter: Live updates @nplvictoria, ‪#‎HCvMK #PS4NPLVIC


It's been a tough month for Melbourne Knights. With one win in its last five games, Andrew Marth's side has hit a slump after a great start to the season. Despite three losses in its last five games, Knights still sit in fourth spot, just six points adrift of top spot.

Goalkeeper Chris May has been in stellar form and he'll need to be on song again if he's to keep a strong Hume City at bay. Saturday's hosts are sitting a spot below the Knights, and could jump into fourth spot with a win against them.

Louie Acevski does have a problem though, his strikers haven't scored a goal in a month; defender Shaun Timmins scored in last week's win, while Issy Erdogan scored four weeks ago against Werribee. 

Hume will be desperate to get the jump on its rivals. It had a chance to go top a month ago, needing a win against Werribee, but could only muster a draw. With only nine points separating the top five sides, both of these teams have a chance to close the gap on their rivals, starting with a win on Saturday night.


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