Melbourne City will begin a month-long home stand on Saturday when they play hosts to high-flying Dandenong City in round 18 of the PS4 NPL2 Season.
After going through an inspired run of form that saw them on top of the Eastern conference table after round 11, City currently find themselves in third place on the table entering the round – eight points behind this week’s opponents and conference pacesetters Dandenong City.
Sitting between the two the Melbourne and Dandenong City sides in second place are the Dandenong Thunder – who sit six points ahead of City on 33.
Of note however is that both Dandenong sides have a game in hand over City – making the three points on offer against Dandenong City vital if City are going to claw back the points deficit between them and the promotion prospects that come with first and second positions on the table.
Whilst the gap between them and the teams at the top is widening, City can take solace from the fact that their dropped points have been largely the result of draws and not defeats.
Since their last win on the 29th of April – a one nil win away to Moreland City – City have drawn four of their five games, there sole defeat coming away to the Dandenong Thunder.
To get back on the winners list against Dandenong City this Saturday, City will need to focus on two areas that have given them trouble in their recent patch of games – conceding first and defending set pieces.
City’s challenges with both were on display in round 17 during their away trip to Murray United.
United were on the scoreboard within 90 seconds of the clash in Albury-Wodonga – Zac Walker putting the hosts ahead after City were dispossessed on the half way line attempting to work the ball into attack.
It was the fifth week in a row that City have conceded first; and keeping a Dandenong City side that that has scored the most goals in the NPL2 Eastern Conference with 43 through 16 games out early will be of the utmost importance if City are to get a win.
Another area of improvement for City will be their ability to defend set pieces. Murray United’s second goal came from a long ball into the penalty area from a free kick – and City coach Lachlan Armstrong has identified set piece defence as an area for improvement:
“I’d probably say that set piece goals against us are a bit of a theme and that’s something that we have to work on and I’ve got no doubts that opposition teams fancy their chances against us from set pieces – so we need to continue to work on that”
In positive developments for City; captain Ali Eyigun returned to action in the game against United, coming on as a substitute.
Eyigun performed excellently as he slotted back into his natural habitat as a defensive midfielder and also scored a thunderous penalty to draw City level at two all.
Armstrong was also impressed with Eyigun in the contest, the head coach saying:
“I thought Ali made a really big difference coming on as a six, and he really ran the show for us. He got lots of ball and moved it quick.”
City’s first encounter with Dandenong City this season ended in defeat – former City player Mate Dugandzic getting on the scoresheet as the side from the Frank Holohan Soccer Complex defended their home turf ad they ran out two nil winners.
Led by coach Stuart Munro and featuring former A-League starts such as the aforementioned Dugandzic, Ljubo Milicevic and Nick Kalmar, Dandenong City could all but ensure a place in the at minimum the promotion playoff that accompanies second place with a win.
The two sides will meet on Pitch One at LaTrobe University in Bundoora at 3:00pm, with Melbourne City’s U20 side, undefeated in 10 games and top of the U20 NPL2 Easter Conference Table, playing a curtain raiser against Dandenong City’s U20 side at 12:30pm.
NPL Victoria – Round 18
Melbourne City vs Dandenong City SC
Saturday June 10, LaTrobe University (Pitch One), Bundoora
Seniors: 3pm Under 20’s: 12.30pm