Fraser Park triumph at home over Lions

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

NSW – PS4 NPL 2  MEN – ROUND 8 – Feature Game

Sunday 9th May 2015 – Fraser Park, Marrickville

Fraser Park FC 2 (Stefan Jovanovic 7′, Kevin Oliveira  82′)
Bankstown City Lions FC 1 (Dean Heffernan 90’+2)

Football can be a funny old game, as we all know, so for Fraser Park, victims of a heavy midweek defeat at the hands of Mount Druitt at Popondetta Park, to beat Bankstown City Lions, who’d overcome then table-toppers, Northern Tigers, on that same chilly  Wednesday night, speaks volumes for the vagaries of the sport we all love so much.

It would seem that whenever Fraser Park meet Bankstown City Lions they do better than against anyone else and usually it’s in the role of underdogs.

This is the fourth year that both sides have been in the division and little has changed during that time.

It may well have a lot to do with the fact that Fraser Park’s Macedonian-born coach, Mile Todoroski, a long-time player and player-coach with the Lions, before moving on and enjoying further success with Liverpool Bossy and Rockdale City Suns, has a few clues about how Bankstown teams approach their games and he certainly showed his tactical acumen this time, too.

He told Back of the Net before the game that he had now all manner of problems to deal with after the 5-2 loss to Mount Druitt.

The suspension of his regular scorer, Hussein Akil, who received his fifth card at Popondetta Park and thus limited his coach’s attacking options, was one factor. Another was the loss of first-choice keeper who needed an appendix operation and the absence of his second-choice keeper, due to previously booked holidays.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Though, in this case, it was ‘cometh the boy’, as Todoroski, with heart in mouth, had no choice than to play his third-choice keeper, 16 year old Terry Lardis, a mere schoolboy.

In fact, when Lardis donned his black cap against the setting sun he looked every inch the minor that he was and he must have felt a keen sense of awe and trepidation as the match drew near.

Todoroski, no stranger to looking out for youngsters, as his own two sons are firmly entrenched in his first team these days, had to rely on his senior players to offer the rookie some degree of protection and they did that admirably.

The only blemish, in an otherwise memorable game from the young goalie, came in the second minute of stoppage-time, with Fraser Park leading 2-0, when the 16 year-old, perhaps overcome with the intense focus he needed to show to pass muster, caught a ball thrown from the sidelines by team-mate Rocci Gabey, rather than doing the keeper’s job of controlling the ball with his feet, before distributing it upfield.

He could be forgiven for that lapse which allowed his opponents to take a quick free-kick, which saw the vastly more experienced Dean Heffernan put away a shot that reduced the arrears to 2-1.

Another four minutes of stoppages were played by referee, Jerry Bitas, who had to deal with some pretty volatile players in the latter stages of this match, one incident leading to Bankstown substitute, Steven Velevski, who‘d not long come on from the bench, getting his marching orders in the 85th.

Fraser Park, playing their first game at home since their new-look synthetic pitch was finally declared ready for action, had to survive some nervy final minutes after that late goal had given the Lions a lifeline.

But having led themselves, from as early as the seventh minute, through Stefan Jovanovic and then got their handy second in the 82nd, were not going to throw this one away and everyone worked hard to preserve that narrow lead and record their first home win.

Bankstown were without a suspended player too, as Aaron D’Mello, recipient of his fifth yellow card at Mills Park, had to be stood down.

He’d played a key role in his team’s win against the Tigers and his absence may have played some part in the surprise loss.

“We were flat tonight, as you saw, “ said Lions’ coach, Leo Carle after the game.

“We spoke about it at half-time and we did have our chances, but we weren’t the same team we were on Wednesday night.

They had their chances, it’s true, but many of them were squandered and allowed young Lardis to be called upon less often than he might have been, though when goalmouth action looked at its most frenetic he was equal to the task with some fine reflex saves.

No doubt he wouldn’t be third-choice goalkeeper under Todoroski if he didn’t have some potential and he got his chance to shine, taking it well on this occasion.

He may  have to pull on the first-team gloves – and the black school cap – again a few times as the first-choice keeper is likely to be out for a month or more and the second-choice may only be back in time for the next game, or the one after that.

But it wasn’t just about the keeper. The whole team showed with their skilful play, especially in the midfield, that they had the ability to beat the highly-rated Bankstown, who have ambitions of returning to the top division.

In a highly competitive second tier that’s going to be no walk in the park, as every team has already been beaten at least once and some of the top-four teams have been beaten twice, before even playing their ninth game, with two of them losing three already.

Only Spirit FC, one of three equal leaders, have lost only once, with two games to make up and it’s significant that their only defeat came at the hands of Fraser Park, rather than Bankstown City Lions.

This division is one of immense interest and changing fortunes and there’s a long way to go before we can see any stand-out team that can get the break on the others, even if Spirit appear well on track to be a major candidate.

Of this game there were plenty of incidents worth recording and the crowd of over a hundred, who had little choice, but to sit behind one goal, with the ground still incomplete and its new grandstand unlikely to be ready for use until next season, were given plenty of entertainment, even if most of them were Lions’ fans and would have gone home feeling disgruntled.

Right from the start Fraser showed the initiative and if the best way of protecting their young keeper was to venture forward as often as possible, they certainly heeded that advice.

In the fourth minute Alexander Veljanovksi, nominally a defender, went close with a low shot that went narrowly wide.

Then in the seventh, a free-kick, needlessly given away by Bankstown’s Reuben Lagos, saw Fraser Park win a free-kick just outside the penalty area.

Adem Kir, an old hand in these matters, took the kick and his powerful shot rocked the crossbar before coming back into play, with the Bankstown defence unable to clear the ball.

There was a scrimmage and Fraser Park’s Stefan Jovanovic was able to poke the ball home, much to the astonishment, perhaps, of the Bankstown fans, who’d been hoping for a bright start by their own team and a dominant display similar to the one they’d witnessed at Mills Park, four days earlier.

A minute later the same Fraser Park player went close again, just sending his shot wide and putting the writing on the wall.

This was no easy-beat Fraser Park side playing for a point, despite some apprehension leading into the game.

They continued to make most of the running, forcing corners and free-kicks in the opening half-hour or so, with Jovanovic again breaking speedily and firing narrowly wide in the 16th.

When Ade Kir’s 19th minute corner came across from the right, it went within a whisker of the late-arriving Nikola Todoroski in the goalmouth and even with past A League stars such as Michael Beauchamp and Dean Heffernan in their backline, the Lions  had plenty to contend with.

The Lions began to show some signs of a recovery from the early dominance by their hosts, with moves down the right flank taking them into threatening positions, but a few of their crosses, which could have been snapped up on a better night, went begging, as they played into a strong first-half breeze, but attacking the end where all of their supporters were gathered.

Brima Kamara was always trying to create something down the right, but his 27th minute cross was too sharp for his team-mates to read and similarly, on the left, Grant Lynch, so instrumental against the Tigers in midweek, watched his own 32nd minute cross elude any meaningful Bankstown touch, as Huseyin Jasli dwelt on his opportunity too long and the 16 year old Lardis breathed another sigh of relief as he had done enough to deny the attacking-midfielder.

A 35th minute Fraser Park free-kick appeared to have extended the home team’s lead, after Veljanovksi had tried his luck and seen his effort cleared only as far as Nikola Todoroski, whose finish from close-range was adjudged to be offside.

That was another let-off for Bankstown, who were clearly struggling to contain the fast-breaking and short-passing game adopted by Fraser Park’s adventurous team.

The first-half ended with Lynch sending over another good cross from the left, this time Huseyin Jasli clipping his close-range effort well over the bar.

The effective Jovanovic succumbed to injury early in the second-half and was replaced by veteran Jeffrey Issa; but if the Lions thought they’d got rid of one of the thorns in their side, they were to be disappointed.

Indeed, Issa was involved in two promising moves soon after coming on and took up where Jovanovic had left off.

Issa played the ball in for Kevin Oliveira in the 56th, but the latter was too slow to react and the ball was hastily cleared.

Then, a minute later, Issa raced through to get onto a pass from deep, but Lions’ keeper, Dion Shaw, just got there first to thwart his predatory move.

In the 59th Adem Kir almost got on the scoresheet with an effort that barely cleared the crossbar, from close-range.

It needed a desperate clearance from Dean Heffernan from off the Bankstown goal-line to keep the score at 1-0 at the 76 minute mark.

A long ball chased by Gabey allowed the defender to lift the ball high towards the Bankstown goal, after keeper Shaw had been spotted well off his line. Gabey’s ball was headed goal-wards, in looping style, by Nikola Todoroski and for a moment it looked as if it would cross the line, before Heffernan used all of his experience to find a way to hook the ball clear.

In the 82nd Bankstown could have drawn level, when a cross from Huseyin Jasli was pumped into the goalmouth.

By this stage both Beauchamp and Heffernan had joined in the attacking part of the Lions’ game and it was Heffernan whose header went mighty close to evening things up, only for the ball to whistle narrowly over the bar.

A minute later and the Lions found themselves two down.

To much jubilation among the home side’s players Issa and Kir combined, using all of their vast experience to set up Kevin Oliveira for the crucial second goal.

Somehow Issa was left unmarked as Kir slid the ball in his path on the right of the area and from about 12 yards out Issa squared the ball to the far-post where his team-mate Oliveira had only to skid in and put the ball past the exposed keeper.

Issa and Kir had been paid insufficient respect, it appeared, as both were given so much room to roam on that occasion.

A red card to Lagos came soon after this, as Bankstown realised the need for some quick goals and tensions began to boil over.

Desperate defending by both sides and some midfield skirmishes punctuated the final minutes of the match and the six minutes of stoppage-time must have seemed like an eternity for the Fraser faithful.

They had to contend with a nerve-wracking moment in the 87th when a corner from Alvaro Malmierca looked like posing some problems for the by then over-worked Fraser defence, but young Lardis took the initiative and pushed the ball away to safety.

Then came the final frenetic moments in stoppage-time.

First, Fraser won a corner in the first minute of time-added-on, with the ball being cleared and then Oliveira, on the break, steered his subsequent shot just wide.

Just when it was looking too late for a Bankstown comeback, Fraser defender, Gabey, elected to throw the ball back to his keeper from near his own goal-line. Instinctively, the youngster caught the ball and referee Bitas awarded an inevitable indirect free-kick inside the Fraser penalty area.

In the heat of the moment nobody from Fraser Park got a defensive wall ready and Bankstown took a quick free-kick, with Huseyin Jasli slipping the ball to Heffernan, who slotted the ball away before anyone realised what was happening.

Four more minutes were to follow of added-time, but Fraser Park were not to be denied and claimed the points.

Victorious coach, Mile Todoroski, merely shrugged his shoulders and smiled with satisfaction at another job done well.

He’ll know that one win does not a season make and his team will need to show more consistency.

“Consistency, that’s what we need to bring to our game,” agreed beaten coach, Leo Carle, as he reflected on his team’s own lack of that commodity, over a period of only four days

“We had one training session on Friday and we didn’t see this coming, as we were well-prepared for the game,” he mused.

Match details

Crowd:  Approx 120

Fraser Park FC: 22. Terry Lardis (gk); 15 Rocci Gabey, 18 Alexander Todoroski, 5 Nicholas Dimitropoulos, 3 Davide Talone; 4 Alexander Veljanovski, 6 Suad Ameli, 7 Kevin Oliveira, 12 Adem Kir; 17 Nicola Todoroski (20 Kim Daison 90+4), 11 Stefan Jovanovic (9 Jeffrey Issa 54)
Subs not used: 16 Robert de Meglio, 10 Paulo Oliveira,
Yellow cards: Kevin Oliveira 15, Davide Talone 45, Alexander Veljanovski 62, Adem Kir 82, Nicola Todoroski 86; Red cards: Nil
Coach: Mile Todoroski

Bankstown City Lions FC: 1. Dion Shaw (gk); 2 Todd Halloran, 5 Michael Beauchamp (C), 8 Dean Heffernan, 3 Grant Lynch;  20 Alvaro Malmierca, 6 Reuben Lagos (15 Billy Darwich 78), 10 Dominic Hudap; 11 Huseyin Jasli, 23 Damir Prodanovic (9 Chris Gomez 77), 7 Brima Kamara (12 Steven Veleski 73),
Subs not used: RGK 30 Nicholas Carosi
Coach: Leo Carle
Yellow cards: Brima Kamara 6, Reuben Lagos 21; Red cards: Steven Veleski 85

Ratings, points, etc.

Referee: Jerry Bitas
Assistants: Daniel Stack and Keith Yau

Weather: Cloudy with sunny breaks, strong breeze coming from behind the goal at the western end.
Game: 7/10
Pitch: 10/10 Synthetic

Players noted: Stefan Jovanovic (FP), 12 Adem Kir (FP), Alexander Veljanovski (FP), Alexander Todoroski (FP), Michael Beauchamp (BCL), Grant Lynch (BCL)