A number of big wins headlines the action in round 18 of the NPL Victoria.

One man show
Green Gully 5-2 Altona Magic
In the fortnight prior to Altona Magic’s trip to Green Gully on Friday night, both sides had enjoyed two wins on the bounce, but it was the visitors that got on the front foot first. Jonas Markovski picking up from where he left off last week as he reacted quickest in the box to put the Magic ahead inside 13 minutes. The joy was short lived however, as going behind seemed to spark the home side into life and they were level four minutes later, when Altona captain Tom Woerndl deflected Nahuel Bonada’s cross into his own net.

Four minutes after that the Pierce Waring show began, as he tapped home his first of the evening from point blank range. Waring would notch his second from the penalty spot just before half time to have Cavaliers 3-1 up going into the break. After an uneventful first half an hour of the second period, Waring lashed home an effort from distance to wrap up his hattrick, but he wasn’t done there. Just six minutes later Waring put his fourth past Zac Bowling to cap off a masterful performance from the Gully number nine, who is now level with Markovski in the golden boot race.

Cian Cuba added a consolation goal for the Magic three minutes from time, but Altona have been brought back to earth after having enjoyed a promising couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Green Gully remain in the top six but have now opened up a small amount of breathing space over the chasing pack.

Cannons keep firing
Oakleigh Cannons 2-0 St Albans Saints

Continuing from its dominant display against Heidelberg last week, Oakleigh were on the front foot from the first minute against St Albans. The Cannons had already registered multiple efforts on goal before Joe Guest’s free kick in the ninth minute missed everyone but found the far corner. They Saints had no answer for wave after wave of pressure from Chris Taylor’s side, and had it not been for some heroics in goal from Jasko Keranovic the game could have been over by half time. The Dynamo shot stopper denying Alex Salmon a certain goal on three separate occasions during the first term.

Keranovic and the St Albans defence did their upmost to deny Oakleigh from doubling its lead in the second half, and when Chris Lucas was sent off for a second booking in the 73rd minute there was hope of a comeback. It wasn’t to be though, as the Cannons weathered a brief storm before Alex Salmon put the game to bed. Joe Guest was brought down in the area, and Salmon tucked the penalty away to score his 50th goal in NPL Victoria. Oakleigh are now within four points of second placed South Melbourne, who the Saints have a quick turnaround to face tomorrow night at Lakeside.

Duggan’s heroic return
Melbourne Knights 0-1 Port Melbourne Sharks

Port Melbourne stepped onto the pitch at Knights Stadium looking to avenge its narrow loss to Melbourne Knights back in round five. Despite losing George Mells to Avondale mid-week, the Sharks were buoyed by the return of star striker Chris Duggan to the bench after a month away through injury. The first half was a cagey affair, with two sides who like to dominate possession not giving an inch, and only one shot on target each was registered as the tie remained scoreless at the break.

The second term continued in a similar vein, with both sides maintaining decent spells of possession, but failing to find the cutting edge in the final third. Duggan was brought on with 15 minutes to play in the hope of salvaging something from match seemingly destined for a draw, and boy did he deliver. With 86 minutes on the clock Duggan took on two Knights defenders at the top of the box and played in Luca Tevere down the right side, before meeting Tevere’s cross to the back post with a bicycle kick to win the game. An incredible way to mark his return to action, and the victory now sees Port draw to within four points of the top four.

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Never in doubt
Moreland City 0-3 Avondale

Moreland City we’re hoping for a vastly different result at home against Avondale than what transpired in the reverse fixture at Avenger Park, when it suffered 7-0 at the hands of the league leaders. For much of the first half, City did well to initially ride its luck during the Avengers fast start before growing into the game in its own right. However, all the hard work was undone on the stroke of half time as Stefan Zinni was brought down in the box, with Liam Boland converting from the spot to give the visitors the lead at the break.

Half way through the second term Liston Diaz made it two, although his effort this week rather more scrappy than his highlight reel finish from last round. Five minutes later and Boland curled an effort into the top corner from the edge of the box to wrap up the points for the his side, who have made light work of teams at the other end of the table this year.
With Heidelberg’s match against South Melbourne postponed until August, Avondale now stands alone at the top of the NPL Victoria table, while newly promoted City sit just two points from the bottom.

Found a way
Hume City 1-2 North Geelong Warriors

Bottom of the table North Geelong had registered just two wins all season and were without point since Round 11 when it travelled to face a Hume City side also struggling of late. Both sides in desperate need of three points, but it was Hume who drew first blood, when Josh Bingham converted after being set up by a delightful dummy from Umut Bozdugan. North Geelong were handed a lifeline after 37 minutes, when Hume keeper Rory Brian spilled a cross right to Lochlann McGrath who buried the chance to have the Warriors level at half time.

The fans in attendance had not seen the last of McGrath, as 15 minutes from time he streamed down the right before clipping an audacious chip over Brian to rival Chris Duggan for goal of the week. Hume struggled to create much in the way of a response to falling behind, and North Geelong would hang on for just their third victory of the season. Now level on points with Bentleigh Greens and three points from safety, all eyes will be on Elcho Park next week when the Warriors welcome Moreland City to town.

South east stalemate
Dandenong Thunder 1-1 Bentleigh Greens

Windy conditions at George Andrews Reserve meant that it wasn’t the cleanest display off football between Dandenong Thunder and Bentleigh Greens. The Thunder would hit the front first after a scramble in the box resulted in the ball bouncing off the cross bar and straight to Grad Damen, who squeezed his shot past Bon Scott. After both sides traded periods of sustained pressure on the opposition’s goal, it was Bentleigh that would eventually strike back just before half time. Dandenong unable to clear its lines and after another scrap in the box Tom Strickland bundled the ball into the back of the net over a flailing Majak Mawith.

The conditions coupled with tiring legs made it difficult for either side to carve out many meaningful opportunities in the second half, both goalkeepers untroubled except for a handful of half chances. A goal apiece the final result, leaving Bentleigh off the bottom by only goal difference after North Geelong’s win over Hume, while the Thunder now sit four points adrift of the top six.

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