Souths v Newcastle Utd

Round 25 report by Alan Clark
South Melbourne v Newcastle United

South Melbourne tested their fans' patience at Bob Jane on Sunday, when it took until the seventieth minute before a John Anastasiadis goal garnered the points against a hard-working Newcastle United.

"You only need one to win a game," said relieved South coach Mickey Petersen after the match.

South had laid siege to the United goal for most of the game, with the anticipated United tactic of defending in numbers and awaiting a break being factored into the South game-plan. The fans too must have learnt their lesson after being on the receiving end of Petersen's outburst against their voluble impatience, as there was little barracking of the side this time, despite the lack of an early goal to ease straining nerves.

"We had to stack men behind the ball and try and frustrate (South) as much as we could, and get them on the break. We had two or three chances in the first half on the counter (attack), but we weren't sharp enough on the break to punish them," said a disappointed Newcastle coach Lee Sterrey after the game.

Petersen complimented the South's fans' patience, after lambasting them following South's last Bob Jane game. "To be fair, there wasn't a lot (for them) to cheer about, but they didn't get on our backs. They were a lot more compassionate about what was going on today."

Anastasiadis had come on as a substitute just before the hour, and just twelve minutes after his introduction, had netted what was to be the winner.

It was not the most graceful conversion to have been seen at Bob Jane, but it was effective. Anastasiadis battered home from close range at his second attempt, after Con Boutsianis - himself playing with new commitment - had also had two attempts from close-in just seconds before in the same move.

The attack had been set up by Socceroo call up Fausto De Amicis who had seen Boutsianis' move into space wide on the left and found him with a perfectly-directed pass. Boutsianis advanced menacingly with United's defence over-stretched.

Newcastle goalkeeper Bob Catlin blocked Boutsianis' first, only for it to fall to Anastasiadis. Anastasiadis was not to be denied.

"The goal was one moment of madness," said Sterrey - hopeful up until that moment to have managed a draw. "When the ball got shifted to (Boutsianis') side we were two against two, and my next nearest player was 35 metres away. There should have been a third player backing up."

The goal was often promised by South, but the United defence had held its shape and kept to the Sterrey game-plan doggedly. The South possession, which at times was not even challenged by Newcastle until South had reached the final third of the pitch, was constant. Midfielders Boutsianis and Steve Panopoulos saw most of the ball, and were keys in the switching from Andy Vlahos on the left-wing to Goran Lozanovski on the right in South's persistent attempts to find the merest crack of an opening.

The opening looked firstly to have come as early as the seventh minute when Catlin mis-judged a Vlahos cross and spilled the ball. Todd McManus had to clear the ball off his own goal-line with a desperate overhead kick.

Lozanovski too almost managed to catch Catlin in uncharacteristicly shakey early-moments form just minutes later when his cross from wide on the right required Catlin to backpedal to reach with his fingertips to deflect away for a corner.

Boutsianis' shot midway through the first half was well-blocked by Catlin, now in more typical control of his area, but it fell to Vaughan Coveny. Coveny however shot well over from a central position about 10 metres out.

Simon Colosimo - also bound for the Coffs Harbour qualifiers - came close following a Boutsianis corner which he ran in from deep to head unchallenged, but narrowly past the post. He repeated the action this time from a Lozanovski corner from the opposite wing barely ten minutes later - this time over the bar.

United's attacks were so rare, they were almost on the endangered list.

But a minute before the break Bradley Wieczorek swung in a cross which caught the wind and required South keeper Michael Petkovic to scramble back and palm over.

The second-half traffic mirrored the first. Within ten minutes Lozanovski had found some space and shot, only for the ball to rebound to him for a second attempt. It too was blocked and it fell to Vlahos. Amazingly, Vlahos also was to get a double chance, as his first attempt clattered off the now-packed goal-line, and his second rebounded from the post.

If the South fans ever had occasion to believe it was not to be their day, that moment would have provided just cause.

However Anastasiadis had still not entered the fray, and his moment was still to come.

South's Round 26 game against Sydney United will be without benefit of captain Paul Trimboli who accrued his fourth yellow card during this game.