Thunder strike shakes up relegation battle
BY DAMIR KULAS
Dandenong Thunder secured a crucial 1-0 victory against the Oakleigh Cannons at George Andrews Reserve on Saturday evening as the battle against relegation in PS4 NPL Victoria heats up.
Defender Faisal Sakhizada’s drive from range in the 26th minute proved to be the difference between the two sides as Stuart Munro’s men picked up their first victory in 14 games.
The hosts started the contest brightly with teenagers Damir Stoilovic and Jarrod Blackbourn combining well only for the latter to see his tame shot easily saved by John Honos.
The Cannons, coming off the back of a disappointing 3-0 loss to South Melbourne in last week’s Dockerty Cup Final, had their first shot in anger when Mirjan Pavlovic’s shot from outside the box went just wide of goal.
Up the other end, Stoilovic was making a presence of himself up-front and on two separate occasions failed to gain the necessary connection to trouble Honos.
Thunder goalkeeper Anthony Saric was called upon to deny Sean Rooney’s header after the former Newcastle Jet met Pavlovic’s cross before a role-reversal minutes later saw the latter flash a header wide.
The hosts were rewarded for some of their bright opening work soon after when defender Sakhizada drilled a low shot from distance into the bottom corner which beat Honos in goal and sent the home fans into ecstasy.
The Afghan international almost doubled the advantage when he rose highest to meet Brodie Paterson’s corner but failed to get his header on target.
An inviting ball into the box from young right-back Victor Mujedinovski saw Stoilovic pounce onto it only to see it go over goal much to the relief of Honos.
The Cannons almost found an equaliser on the stroke of half-time as Pavlovic’s header was cleared of the line by midfield workhorse Brendan Elmazovski before his counterpart Timmy Purcell’s curler from outside the box sailed narrowly over goal.
The second half began on a similar note as the first with chances aplenty as Patterson and Pavlovic exchanged goal-scoring opportunities between them without troubling the respective goalkeepers.
Cannons forward Sean Rooney was then played through on goal only to be denied by Saric as the shot stringed the palms of the young shot-stopper.
A last-ditch goal-line clearance denied Pavlovic once more after the former A-League striker went around Saric only to see his strike heroically blocked on the line by Jarryd Barnes.
Both sides emptied their benches late on and Arthur Papas’ men would feel unlucky not to have found an equaliser when Barnes again came to the rescue of the home team with another goal-line block seeing him deny substitute Lambros Honos.
Stuart Munro’s men would hang on and resist countless pressure from the away side for a pivotal three points which sees them move away from the automatic relegation spots into 12th ahead of their relegation six-pointer next week away to North Geelong.
The Cannons on the other hand must regroup as they tackle Far North Queensland on Tuesday Night in a FFA Cup Round of 32 tie.
Dandenong Thunder 1 (Sakhizada 26) defeated Oakleigh Cannons 0 at George Andrews Reserve
DANDENONG THUNDER: 20. Anthony Saric (GK), 2. Jarryd Barnes, 3. Ramazan Tavsancioglu, 5. Faisal Sakhizada, 7. Jarod Blackbourn (9. Veton Korcari 88’), 10. Feston Azizi (23. Michael Gerace 77’), 11. Timmy Purcell, 12. Brendan Elmazovski, 14. Damir Stoilovic (8. Nelson Salvatore 58’), 24. Viktor Mujedinovski, 27. Brodie Paterson
Unused Subs: 1. Zaim Zeneli (GK), 15. Lewis Foster
Yellow Card(s): Paterson 89
Red Card(s): None
OAKLEIGH CANNONS: 76: John Honos (GK), 5. Aron Wilford, 6. Steve Pantelidis, 8. Dusan Bosnjak (25. Delarno Pharoe 66’), 11. Kofi Danning (2. Rowan McNamee 83’), 12. Tremayne Sadler, 14, Mirjan Pavlovic (26. Lambros Honos 73’), 15. Jake McLean, 16. Sean Rooney, 21. Jakob Williams, 23. Theo Papageorgiou
Unused Subs: 4. James Bouziotas, 35. Lajos Hun (GK)
Yellow Card(s): None