With no fewer than five new fresh faces in the squad, Heidelberg United fell to a 3-1 defeat in the traditional derby against South Melbourne Hellas in Round 1 of NPL Victoria men’s at Lakeside stadium on Thursday night.
For the opening match of the season, the ‘Bergers welcomed Ivan & Joseph Franjic, Josh Pin, Kaine Sheppard and Brian Summerskill as new starting XI inclusions.
Club returnee Andrew Cartanos was not in the squad, as well as the captain Reuben Way due to sustaining an injury. One of the new acquisitions in Joseph Franjic took that full-back position as was eager to impress on his Heidelberg debut.
With the home side on the front foot, Nicholas Eres had made a huge save to deny a strike from South Melbourne from twelve yards.
The significance of having a solid defence will be crucial this season for the ‘Bergers, as Mallan Roberts started off firm by making crucial tackles to keep Heidelberg in the game.
South Melbourne took the lead as Andy Brennan lobbed a cross to Alun Webb who stabbed it past Nick Eres.
Creativity in the midfield will be an area of the park that will need to be harnessed in this new crop of the Heidelberg squad, as South Melbourne doubled their lead when Max Mikkola pounced on the loose ball.
The home side broke away through the midfield to be clear on goal and Ajdin Fetahagic had to make a last-ditch sliding tackle, resulting in the centre-back being sent off and the Warriors down to ten men.
Coming into the season as a backup goalkeeper, Eres prevented the home side increasing their advantage with numerous saves, including one to his right from a Harrison Sawyer strike.
South Melbourne extended their lead from the resulting corner as Sawyer headed in his side’s third of the night.
Kaine Sheppard is a devastating finisher but hadn’t been able to get the service, but will be crucial as the players look to feed him the ball more often for Heidelberg to compete against teams that are tough to crack.
With that being said Sheppard hit an amazing volley only for it to be saved by Javier Lopez.
Even though it was only a consolation goal, the amazing left-footed strike from Sheppard reminded us what he is capable of.
A downhearted, but reflective George Katsakis gave his thoughts of the team’s performance in the post-game interview.
“I can’t say we were the better team because we weren’t,” he said.
“l thought they broke down passages of play that we tried to create some fluency out of, whereas we started a little bit deeper. We also could have started a bit higher to play tiki-takas as we like to play.”
Heidelberg United will look to get the ball rolling when they host their first game of the season next Sunday at 3pm against Dandenong Thunder.
South Melbourne 3 (A. Webb 25’, M. Mikkola 37’, H. Sawyer 86’) – Heidelberg United 1 (K. Sheppard 88’)
63 – Nicholas Eres (GK)
4 – Mallan Roberts
5 – Ajdin Fetahagic
6 – Joseph Franjic
8 – Dominic Falla (20 – Luka Ninkovic 78’)
9 – Adrian Zahra (C)
10 – Ivan Franjic
14 – Kaine Sheppard
15 – Brian Summerskill (22 – Kazuki Okada 68’)
17 – Joshua Pin
21 – Eoin Ashton (23 – Chudiar Tharjiath 58’)
Subs not used:
1 – Alex Golikidis
12 – Deion Nikolaidis
19 – Sean Ellis