By Alex Bagdasarian
Heidelberg United’s roller coaster season continued when it faced and overcame arch rival Avondale at Avenger Park, on a sunny but cool Saturday afternoon.
Through sheer necessity, George Katsakis fielded a much changed line up, with the likes of Deion Nikolaidis and Churdiar Tharjiath returning to the starting line-up, and Adrian Zahra very much a makeshift right back.
Considering the lack of consistency of results & the fact the Warriors had not beaten a side in the top half of the standings so far this season, initial thoughts indicated an uphill battle.
A tight contest showed the ‘Bergers were certainly up for this match, combined with a solid backline that did not allow the home side many opportunities on goal in the first half, was evidence of some major improvements on display the further the match progressed.
A persistent Tharjiath did brilliantly going past the keeper and cutting it back for the ever reliable Kaine Sheppard for a tap in to give the Warriors the advantage midway through the first half.
Sheppard was instrumental late in the first half, controlling the ball nicely on the chest, feeding a pinpoint ball to find Ashton out wide. The latter cut into the box, before curling a right foot shot into the bottom corner for a beautiful goal to double Heidelberg’s lead.
Shortly after the main break, the home side pegged a goal back from a beautifully struck Blake Carpenter volley into the top corner.
Rather than allow Avondale to build momentum, the Warriors hit back almost immediately to restore the two goal advantage. The physicality and height of Sheppard and the pace of Ashton was superbly put to use for the third goal, Ashton striking the ball over the keeper for a magnificent finish for his double.
To round off a Warriors display full of grit and determination, White denied the home side a goal from a penalty, as if to emphasise his desire to maintain his position as number one custodian with moments such as that one.
Ecstatic coach George Katsakis caught up with HUFC TV post-match, and was full of praise for his team, mentioning everyone played their part, despite not necessarily playing in their preferred positions.
“We had to do makeshift changes and bring people into unfamiliar roles, and possibly graft out a result. Having said that, we were very fluent in our first and second passes,” he said.
“I think it wouldn’t be fair, it would be hard to single out just one or two that stood out. For me, there were eleven players giving their heart and soul.”
Dual goal scorer Eoin Ashton was asked to give his assessment of the performance.
“We set up to hit on the counter, especially first half, and they couldn’t handle it. We were very dangerous, and the goals speak for themselves from those counters. I’m glad to have gone out and done what l needed to do.”
Courageous keeper Brendan White also spoke with HUFC TV, giving his take on the win.
“After the last few results, in a sense of we had nothing to lose, but still had to prove something today. We defended well to bounce back from last week,” he said.
Regarding the penalty save, White was somewhat modest.
“It was hard to tell from his run up of where he was going to do, luckily my leg was still there and Zahra came and cleared it away, which is great of the lads to have faith in me, as l save it and then they follow in quickly and clear it away.”
Heidelberg United will again have another short turnaround this week, as it seeks to continue the winning form on Tuesday night (May 10) at 7:30pm against Ballarat City in Round 6 of the Australia Cup at Grange Reserve in Clayton South. The Warriors will then host Eastern Lions on Sunday in the NPL fixture that marks the halfway point of the season.
Avondale FC 1 (B. Carpenter 50’) – Heidelberg United 3 (Sheppard 26,’ Ashton 42,’ 53,’)
GK – 1 Brendan White
4 – Mallan Roberts
5 – Ajdin Fetahagic
6 – Joseph Franjic (22 – Takeru Okada 48’)
9 – Adrian Zahra
12 – Deion Nikolaidis
14 – Kaine Sheppard
15 – Brian Summerskill
18 – Anthony Theodoropoulos (44 – Tristan Pantano 84’)
21 – Eoin Ashton
23 – Chudiar Tharjiath (24 – Hussain Al Sharifi 73’)
Subs not used:
GK – 63 Nick Eres
10 – Ivan Franjic
38 – Matthew Tsalikidis