Title race wide open

With the top-of-the-table South Melbourne dropping points in recent weeks, the NPL Victoria title race is wide open again heading into Round 15.

Bentleigh Greens v Northcote City
With the top-of-the-table South Melbourne dropping points in recent weeks, the title race is wide open again, with Bentleigh one of those teams making a serious challenge for the top prize.

The Greens have had a super month and will be searching for their fifth successive win against the side it lost to in the 2013 Victorian Premier League Grand Final, though that may seem like a distant memory after they disposed of Northcote City in the two sides’ first meeting in the NPL back in Round 2.

Northcote City is stuck in a rut – it hasn’t won since Round 10 – and needs to take a big scalp to boost its confidence.

Ballarat Red Devils v Goulburn Valley Suns
The NPL’s two regional clubs produced a classic when they met in Round 2, with Ballarat scoring in the final 10 seconds to cancel out Kristian Sarkies’ (now at FC Bulleen Lions) equaliser in the 90th minute.

A lot has changed since that night though, as both sides have regenerated their lists in a bid to escape relegation.

Green Gully recruit Brian Vanega was brilliant for the Suns last week, and will be relied upon to fill the void left by talented striker Stipo Andrijasevic’s departure to Melbourne Knights.

Simon Colosimo could make his debut for the Suns after signing from Dempo SC in India, while Ballarat will be looking for another stellar performance from striker Deang Aguek, who scored a brace in his club debut last week.

Hume City v Werribee City
Werribee City has somewhat raided Hume City in the transfer window, luring Devon Bonne and Jose Guerrero.

Coach Nino Ragusa will be picking the brains of his Hume City recruits, as his side looks to bounce back from a disappointing home loss to Green Gully.

Hume City has been crippled by inconsistency too, making this contest a very tough one to predict.

Green Gully v Dandenong Thunder
It has been a typical season for Green Gully so far; a slow start followed by a mid-season resurgence.

Four wins in its past five outings prove that Green Gully – the only side to not have drawn a match this season – is back to its best despite so many changes in its playing and coaching stocks this season.

The youthful Thunder doesn’t boast the experience of Green Gully but is unpredictable. Its coach Dean Hennessey will return to his old club on Sunday and will no doubt be keen to grab the points against the side which sacked him last year.

Melbourne Knights v Pascoe Vale
It promises to be one of the matches of the round, with the Knights buoyed by their Dockerty Cup quarter-final win and Pascoe Vale on a remarkable run of five consecutive wins.

The home side handed new signing Stipo Andrijasevic a starting berth in the midweek cup fixture, and he didn’t disappoint with a performance that caused South Melbourne’s defence plenty of headaches.

Then there was the return of 2013 VPL Gold Medallist Marijan Cvitkovic, who came off the bench for his first appearance in over 10 matches.

It’s all clicking again for the Knights after their wretched run of injuries, but will their best be good enough to knock off a rampant Pascoe Vale?

Sunday’s fixture will also be the final match for Pascoe Vale star and reigning NPL Player of the Month Davey van’t Schip, who will depart for Holland to play for JOS Watergraafsmeer and complete his studies.

South Melbourne v Port Melbourne Sharks
South Melbourne couldn’t break down a resolute Knights defence in the Dockerty Cup quarter final on Wednesday night, and seemed to lack a spark.

The league leader was impressive in the 3-0 win against Heidelberg United, but has had a flat month overall. When Milos Lujic fires, so does South, but the star striker has been kept quiet recently and couldn’t make an impact in the loss to the Knights.

Port Melbourne finally got back on the winners list last week, but has a tendency to back up wins with poor showings in what has been the story of its season. Can the Sharks buck the trend, or will South find its groove again?

Heidelberg United v Oakleigh Cannons
A Dusan Bosnjak free kick in the final minute of injury time was all that separated these two sides in Round 2.

Thirteen weeks later, they meet in the most anticipated match of the round and arguably the most important.

A loss to Heidelberg United would see it fall 10 points behind the Cannons, while the latter could move to within one point of top position if results fall their way.

The Bergers haven’t lost at home since Round 1 and will again need to make the most of their home advantage if they’re to mount a challenge for the title.

Click here for all of the match details for the Round 15 fixtures.