NPL VIC Week 1 review

After 11 months of no football, and two separate pre-seasons, last weekend’s return of NPL Victoria was met with anxious yet jovial delight from Melbourne’s football faithful, with fan attendances and high streaming numbers indicating that local football has been truly missed.

The match of the round saw Heidelberg United FC face arch-rival South Melbourne FC in the Traditional Derby, with the match played at the neutral venue of Oakleigh’s Jack Edwards Reserve.

A strong opening crowd of 2,500 bared witness to an opening half best describable with one word; forgettable. However, the second half saw a clear increase in the on-field intent from both sets of players, and it was South’s Harrison Sawyer who opened the scoring early, taking advantage of a solid height advantage over Berger’s keeper Theodorides, heading home the goal which would eventually seal the 1-0 win over the reigning champions.

This weekends round of fixtures will no doubt lack the appeal which the opening round brought, with local derbies being a key feature on MD1. However, Friday night is set to play host to no fewer than 6 (yes 6) matches, with Avondale’s trip to Altona to face the Magic the only fixture not played on the Friday night.

After drawing a match out of a hat (when I said this round lacks the same appeal as the last round, I meant it!), we have a match of the round: Green Gully v Hume City.

Hume, arguably the biggest losers of a cancelled competition in 2020, were left feeling frustrated after wasting multiple opportunities in their opening round stalemate with Altona Magic at ABD Stadium.

Not able to replicate their remarkable start to the 2020 campaign, which they ended undefeated, with 5 wins from their 5 matches, Hume showed signs of the attacking prowess they were capable of, with Andy Brennan coming closest for the home side. Big keeper Michael Weier was also in top form, earning his clean sheet after repelling multiple dangerous attacks from Magic.

On the contrary, Gully’s opening round win over St. Albans Dinamo was a far cry of their start to the previous campaign. Gully’s lineup looked focused from the outset, and were rewarded after the two Kamara’s linked up for the opening goal early in the first half.

Gully’s 2020 campaign was over before it really got going, winless in their first 3 matches, including an opening round 4-2 loss to Dinamo. However, when Gully’s Daniel Jones headed home from a corner late in the second half, it was apparent that the short trip back to Green Gully Reserve would be accompanied with 3 points.

Former Gully, and current Hume player, Andy Brennan will likely be the one to watch for Hume come Friday night, whilst it will be interesting to see if a partnership can continue to be formed by Teeboy & Mamadi Kamara, after the pair linked for last weekend’s opening goal.

Battles between Hume and Gully have typically been even contests, with both clubs sharing 4 wins a piece from the previous 10 battles. Hume’s strong start to the season in 2020 did include a comprehensive 2-0 win over Gully.

To further cement it’s pick of match of the round for this week, Optus Sport’s ongoing docuseries, Football Belongs, have announced the next addition in the series is to be focused on the Green Gully and the Maltese community, with Friday’s match to include traditional Maltese cuisines, as well as Optus Sports film crews.

Other matchups that night include Melboune Knights and Dandenong Thunder at Knights Stadium, South Melbourne and Eastern Lions at Lakeside Stadium, Bentleigh Greens and Port Melbourne at Kingston Heath, a Croatian derby between Dandenong City and St. Albans Dinamo at Frank Holohan Soccer Complex, and Heidelberg United again travelling to Jack Edwards Reserve to face off against Oakleigh Cannons.