By Craig MacKenzie
THE match of the day in the opening round of the local league season between Rosebud Heart and Baxter has been transferred to Baxter Park.
Originally scheduled as a Heart home game the unavailability of Truemans Road Reserve due to cricket and council work has forced the switch of the Saturday 25 March showdown.
Heart has the better derby record having won three of the four clashes highlighted by a thumping 7-1 demolition of its arch rival in 2015 with hat-tricks to Dave Greening and Simon O’Donnell.
Baxter’s one win came in the same season, a 4-2 victory at Baxter Park.
Heart has almost forgotten what losing a league game feels like having last dropped points in a 1-0 loss to Springvale City at Ross Reserve on 5 September 2015.
“It’s good for local football to have a rivalry like that and it’s important to get off to a good start but the main thing for us is to concentrate on the things we can control,” said Heart gaffer Scott Morrison.
The man who causes the most headaches for Baxter is goal machine Greening and the Englishman resumed training last week after returning from a European holiday.
Big Chris Sibson is also expected to have a major impact after returning from Seaford United. Sibson is recovering from a back injury and was rested in the recent Wallace Cup.
“Sibbo is going to be a huge signing for us with his experience and quality and hopefully he’ll get his first game back this weekend,” said Morrison.
Colin Hughes remains as assistant coach and team manager, Stuart Mitchell is goalkeeping coach and Stan Packer is the new reserves coach.
“We’re very excited about hiring Stan due to his track record in developing young players,” Morrison added.
Heart is confident that it has secured the signature of a former Langwarrin, Doveton and Warragul United defender but won’t release his name until the deal is confirmed.
Heart’s derby record means little to Baxter senior coach Roy Kilner and he was in a combative mood when asked about the looming shootout.
“You have to congratulate Rosebud on a remarkable 2016 season,” said Kilner.
“For any team in any competition to go a full season unbeaten is almost fairytale stuff but by 5pm on the opening game of the season that fairytale will end.
“We don’t believe in fairies at Baxter.”
Kilner has added Ben Meiklem and Spencer Porter to his senior squad while Francis Beck has been appointed assistant coach.
Meiklem is a midfielder from Peninsula Strikers and teenager Porter is a goalkeeper from Skye United.
Porter is making his mark off the field as a successful entrepreneur having created his own LOWK8 app and having it available in Apple’s app store.
New State 5 South club Somerville Eagles gets its inaugural campaign underway with an FFA Cup second qualifying round clash with Mitchell Rangers on Saturday 18 February.
The game is at Monterey Reserve, home of Frankston Pines and has an unusually early kick-off at 10am as the Eagles are hosting a private function that afternoon.
“At this stage we have about 40 senior players and eight girls,” said Eagles president Felix Arena.
“We’re looking at firsts and reserves in the FFV and maybe two Bayside teams but if we can get another seven girls then I’d love to field a women’s team.
“As for the men we’ve fielded a couple of enquiries about a senior coach but nothing of any substance and by the time the FFA Cup comes around if we haven’t made an appointment then Zach (Pedersen, director of coaching) will be in a charge.”
The club is holding its junior registration day next Sunday 12 February at Somerville Secondary College starting at 10am and the seniors will play a friendly against Rosebud Heart at 1pm.
The Eagles make their league debut on Saturday 25 March at Somerville Secondary College against Old Mentonians. The reserves kick off at 1pm and the senior game is at 3pm.
English imports have dominated discussion on the local scene in the past week with Jack Truelove and Nathan Smith arriving for their stints with Mornington and Connor Belger and Paul Speed flying in to join Langwarrin.
Truelove made a huge impression at his first training session with Mornington and the diminutive Smith looms as a versatile signing having played recently as an attacking midfielder with English club Brigg Town. He is also comfortable out wide.
Another top-flight English recruit, Josh Hine from Salford City, is waiting for his visa and is expected to arrive at Dallas Brooks Park in early March.
Central midfielder Matthew Wade from Blyth Spartans in England’s Northern Premier League Premier Division may arrive in the next week, much earlier than expected.
Frankston Pines and former Seaford United and Kingston City winger Stefan Soler is among a group of triallists trying to impress Mornington head coach Adam Jamieson.
“I’ll make a call on the triallists this week but I thought Stefan was fantastic at the Wallace Cup,” said Jamieson.
As we went to press Peninsula Strikers were waiting on news about their efforts to secure a top-class striker.
“If this comes through it will turn a few heads because he’s an NPL player,” said Strikers head coach Craig Lewis.
The club already has imported three players from England, Italy and Switzerland and the coaching staff believe that a quality striker will round off the squad and enable Strikers to mount a serious promotion campaign.