Almanac Soccer: South Melbourne’s perfect pre-season fails at the last hurdle

Sunday Friendly Game 21.02.2021


The striking canvas art of the club’s logo on display behind the goals.


South have travelled to St Albans Saints at Churchill Reserve in a final pre-season hit out before they take on their old nemesis, Heidelberg United, in the first round of the Victorian National Premier League. A number of key players were noticeable absent from the team sheet, assuming they were being rested to face the title defenders.


St Albans Saints proved to be no easy task, as they showed signs of an intelligent and resilient force of nature in the early rounds of 2020 before the season was cancelled. Relegated in 2017, they crashed out of the promotion play-off series early in 2018 but clinched promotion back into the first division by two points in 2019.


Throughout the game, South Melbourne invited the Saints to press forward, forcing the keeper to make some crucial saves and diffuse the situation within his own box. South struggled to find consistency and creativity in their attack with a handful of aimless crosses which flew wayward. The game looked to be dire, falling into a stalemate by half time. However, in the early minutes of the second half, the same story pursued until eventually St Albans found their way to lead one-nil.


South on the attack with the best chance of the game


The fans in attendance for the friendly game


A couple of changes were made and pressure escalated on the Hellas players to redeem themselves, as they competed for a starting position for the upcoming season. Their attitudes changed. They applied pressure on the Saints later in the second half with more desire to take shots from all angles.


A flash moment from an uncontested cross in the Saint’s penalty area saw the ball headered just wide. An incredible save was made from a goal mouth scramble where the ball was destined to go into the top corner. However, the attacking efforts by South were left late, meaning their pre-seasons scheduled finished on a whimper. It was a mix of concern and uncertainty from a supporter’s perspective about whether South was ready for Heidelberg, but some may argue that this friendly may have been only experimental with youngsters and new signings.



Club Spotlight – St Albans Saints SC


Founded by Dinamo Zagreb supporting – Croatian immigrants in 1954, they have been residents of Churchill Reserve in St Albans since 1982. They reached the heights of winning the minor premiership of the Victorian Premier League in 1998 and prides itself on nurturing rising talent to the A-League in recent times. The likes of Mate Dugandzic, Tomislav Pondeljak and Ivan Franjic have started their careers at St Albans Saints before going onto better things.


Most notably, one of Australia’s finest players of the 20th Century, Billy Vojtek, played for the Saints in 1983 when they earnt their first accolade in the Victorian Division 2 title. The Football Victorian Hall of Famer finished the season as the league’s top scorer.


Their most recent national recognition was their FFA Cup tie against Perth Glory in 2014. The tie was played in the Round of 16 following a win away to Parramatta FC. St Albans, the sister club to Melbourne Knights, were granted the opportunity to host the fixture at Knights Stadium. A recorded gate entry of 3,500 fans came to support the local side. The Saints dared to dream of a shock win as they pulled a goal back mid-way through the second after trailing 2-0, but were overwhelmed by the Glory’s attacking prowess as full time ended in a 4-1 defeat.


Last year did not halt any club progress however. The club have made significant strides, completing much needed upgrades to their facilities. They have started a Pledge for Lights function in 2015, which gained traction amongst the community to raise over $100,000 in total, and gained attention from the Brimbank City Council (Natalie Suleyman MP) and Victorian State government to foot the bill of another $500,000 to have functioning floodlights for night games and training sessions across three pitches.


Furthermore, the club have built a small grandstand by the wing to accommodate their members. The stand adds character and raises the profile of the club. The visual aesthetic of a much-needed sheltered seating area makes the stadium more of an enticing venue to  watch live football locally and adds flavour to the club’s identity. It’s exciting to see growth and progress at grass-root football clubs. As a football neutral, we’ll be looking forward to seeing their vocal fans out in force in the stands as the season begins this weekend, especially since people have been starved to get out of the house in recent, troubling times.


The new grandstand at Churchill Reserve



For more photos showcasing the venue and action, click HERE



To read more from Luke, click HERE


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Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.



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  1. Marvellous stuff, Luke. We have many Polonia photographs and other items in the Les Shorrock and Laurie Schwab collections at Deakin University Archives in Geelong. I’m not sure about access at the moment, but I’ll find out and get back to you if you drop me an email at [email protected].


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