THE State League season kicks off this weekend with Mornington, Peninsula Strikers and Skye United looming as serious promotion prospects.
Mornington and Strikers will underpin their promotion push with quality visa players while Skye has used the local market to bolster its senior squad.
Promotion for Mornington would mean a third State 1 South-East title in four seasons and would unlock the NPL door for Adam Jamieson’s men.
“If anything I was probably guilty of being overconfident last season so I’m a bit more wary this time but we know what’s ahead of us and what we have to do,” said Jamieson.
If Strikers succeed it will be the 12th promotion in 19 seasons for new head coach Andy O’Dell, who is bullish about the club’s prospects.
“I told Trevor (Johnston, club president) if you give me the job I want to win the league,” said O’Dell.
“I think it’s about time there was another team on the peninsula other than Langwarrin and Mornington.
“I know people don’t like hearing that and I’ve got my detractors but I don’t give a stuff mate in fact the more they have a go at me the better I like it.”
Two of O’Dell’s former clubs, Altona City and Sunshine George Cross, have tried to lure him back in the past few days but he has recommitted himself to the Strikers’ job.
Billy Armour has enjoyed success at Skye United since taking over midway through the 2015 season and avoiding relegation.
The following year Armour’s men clinched the State 4 South title and last year they fell at the final promotion hurdle losing their round 22 home clash with Brandon Park 2-0.
“I think we’ve very much strengthened the squad and added the experience of big Caleb (Nicholes), Cameron (Leopold) and Chris (Driver) and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to do better in the important games,” said Armour.
Skye defeated State 2 outfit Doncaster Rovers 3-2 in a friendly last Friday night at Anderson Park with goals from Nicholes (2) and Driver.
In Saturday’s NPL2 action Langwarrin defeated Murray United 2-0 at Lawton Park.
Late goals and blustery conditions were the main stories of the afternoon with Langy hitting the mark in the 87th and 91st minutes.
Andy McLean put in another excellent shift before being subbed late in the contest by Viktor Medini who within a minute pounced on a poor back pass only to be upended by Murray keeper Abdulkerim Koc.
Langy strike ace Liam Baxter converted the resultant penalty with ease.
A few minutes later another Langy substitute was in the spotlight as Sergio Yanez broke forward quickly then played the ball to Baxter on the left of the area who slipped it inside for partner in crime Johnny Kuol to slot past the advancing Koc and complete the scoreline.
Langy won the under-20s game 2-1 with headed goals from Dylan Kilner and Sam Klepac and a second-half penalty save by Ben Caballero.
Big Josh Mulla came off the bench in the second half for his Langy swansong.
The 19-year-old is returning to an apprenticeship in his native Cairns and his old club Leichhardt Lions FC.
In Sunday’s NPLW action Southern United lost 7-0 to Bulleen Lions at Monterey Reserve.
Southern’s under-12s lost 2-0, the under-14s won 2-1 with goals from Candy Kilderry and Rhys McKenna, the under-16s lost 2-1 and the under 19s lost 4-0.
Southern has added defender Lilli Gonzalez from Box Hill United to its senior squad and she is expected to make her debut against her old side in Sunday’s round 5 clash.
Under-16 coach Andrea Vignati resigned last week and Southern expects to name his replacement shortly.
In other news Frankston Pines won both of its recent friendlies against Seaford United and Casey Comets.
Pines beat Seaford 4-2 last Tuesday at Monterey Reserve with goals from Naseer Mohammed, Mitch Landers, Aaryn Rix and Munib Mohamed then knocked off Comets 3-1 at Comets Stadium on Saturday with goals from Ioasa Saemo (2) and Landers.
Seaford United beat Heatherton United 1-0 at North Seaford Reserve on Saturday with Matty Morris-Thomas settling the issue.
Baxter had a 5-2 win over Old Mentonians at Baxter Park on Saturday under the watchful gaze of recently appointed assistant coach Mitchell Ball.
Davidson Alliieu (2), Matt Morgan (2) and Alan Lipsett scored for Baxter.
Somerville Eagles had a 2-0 win over Berwick Churches on Saturday with goals from Andy Yeo and Bjorn Kutschera.
Here are the local senior squads for 2018 with the previous club of new signings in brackets:
GOALKEEPER: James Foster (Langwarrin). DEFENDERS: Owen Kilner (captain), Heath Goss, Joe Iline (Doveton), Tim Lee (Langwarrin), Andy Bayliss-White (Frankston Pines), Rob Gallautz (Hampton Park Utd). MIDFIELDERS: Izaak Barr (Peninsula Strikers), Alan Lipsett, Stuart McKenzie (Oakleigh Cannons), Matt Morgan (Langwarrin), Jack Morgan (Hampton Park Utd), Dan Disseldorp, Jake Kidder. FORWARDS: Bryce Ingram, Liam Kilner, Ben Meiklem, Davidson Alliieu (Skye Utd), Samuel Brima (Peninsula Strikers).
GOALKEEPERS: Jarrod Nardino (Peninsula Strikers), Josh Permal. DEFENDERS: Ben Caffrey, Chris Hodgson, Connor Tzelios, Dion Brown, Franco Vanni (Eastern Lions), Graham Hill, Luke Murray. MIDFIELDERS: Abdullah Darmanii, Benny Millward, Ehab Hilal (Eastern Lions), Jack Carter, Jayden Zahra, Lewis Potter (Peninsula Strikers), Will O’Brien (Rosebud Heart), Josh Berrisford. FORWARDS: Aaryn Rix (Peninsula Strikers), Ioasa Saemo, Khali Bahrami, Mitch Landers (Seaford Utd), Naseer Mohammed (Doveton), Munib Mohamed.
GOALKEEPERS: Liam Little (Southern Utd, New Zealand), Steve Bayard (South Springvale). DEFENDERS: Aaron Root, Jack Truelove, Stefan Soler, Steve Elliott, Jamie Cumming (Avondale FC), Josh Valadon, Charlie Parker. MIDFIELDERS: Craig Smart, Keegan Ziada, Sam Scott (Peninsula Strikers), Alexander White (Worthington Town, England), Sam Reeves (Nelson FC, England), Andre Bennett (Bishop Auckland, England). FORWARDS: Wayne Gordon, Max Etheridge (Marlborough Town, England), Sammy Orritt, Curtis Hutson (Barry Town, Wales).
GOALKEEPER: Nathan Prince (Dandenong Thunder). DEFENDERS: Hayden Beasley (Altona City), Liam Weir (Auchinleck Talbot FC, Scotland), Azmain Kalitzki (Altona City), Tom Giblin (East Yorkshire Carnegie, England), Louis Moss (FC Oswestry Town, England), Nathan Yole (Mornington), Dean Rae (Penrith AFC, England) Steve McClelland (Melton SC). MIDFIELDERS: Daniel Brookes, Stefan Karac (Oakleigh Cannons), Nick McNamara (Milton Keynes Dons, England) Ryan Wilson (AFC Telford, England), Tom Hawkins, Grant Davies, Jack Gallagher (Baxter). FORWARDS: Ryan Thompson (Brigg Town, England), Oscar Marsden (Brigg Town, England), Femi Orenuga (Ashford City, England), Ryan Brading (Sway FC, England), Nathan Smith (Mornington), Callum Mitchell.
GOALKEEPERS: Austin Kearney (Dingley), Patrick Bretherton. DEFENDERS: Adrian Pace, Jason Alizzi, Linam Wang, Simon Riam (White Star Dandenong), Tom Pollock, Tom Thorwesten, Tristan Stass. MIDFIELDERS: Dean Snoxel, Daniel Mota, Matt Morris-Thomas, Mitch Hawkins (Hampton Park Utd), Mitch Coates (Lang Lang Utd), James Kuot (Kingston City), Chris Busuttil (Skye Utd), Brad Jackson (Casey Comets). FORWARDS: Apimeleki Waqa (unattached), Conor Mcfall, Tom Soro (Dragons, Worthing, England).
GOALKEEPERS: Jonathon Crook, Lee Heron. DEFENDERS: John Andrinopolous, Billy Painting, Saj Sugrim, Mo Elhassan, Daniel Walsh (Seaford Utd), Gerald Lawler (Langwarrin), Chris Driver (Endeavour Hills Fire). MIDFIELDERS: Marcus Collier, Mark O’Connor, Jordan Redburn (Langwarrin), Jason Nowakowski, Marcus Anastasiou (Peninsula Strikers), Cameron Leopold (Peninsula Strikers). FORWARDS: Daniel Attard, Caleb Nicholes (Langwarrin), Mitch Blake (Langwarrin), Lawrence Komba.
GOALKEEPERS: Latham Horvath, Brad Klarenbeek (Rosebud Heart), Cameron Parsons (Rosebud Heart). DEFENDERS: Samuel Beadle, Stephen Curd (Seaford Utd), Michael Easton, Damian Garcia (unattached), Jordan Lunt, Jarryd Lymer, Eric Manhanong, Kevin McCormick, Jack McKenna (Langwarrin), James McKenzie, Ashley Scholes (Rosebud Heart), Hayden Taylor (Peninsula Strikers). MIDFIELDERS: Michael Clark (Elwood City), Kadison English (Rosebud Heart), Bjorn Kutschera, Nicholas Njari (Dandenong City), Matthew Swanson, Joel Wade, Stewart Watene (unattached). FORWARDS: Matthew Curd (Seaford Utd), Alex Colville, David Greening (Rosebud Heart), Louie Griffiths (Baxter), Liam Morgan, Frame Selkka (Rosebud Heart), Harry Vanstaveren, Andrew Yeo (Baxter).
Here are this weekend’s league games but please note that FFV is yet to name a venue for the fixture between Peninsula Strikers and Brandon Park originally set down for Centenary Park, which remains unplayable:
FRIDAY 8.30pm: Monbulk Rangers v Skye Utd (Monbulk Recreation Reserve).
SATURDAY 3pm: Langwarrin v Moreland City (Lawton Park, U20s 1pm); Mornington v Manningham Utd Blues (Dallas Brooks Park), Peninsula Strikers v Brandon Park (venue to be announced), Seaford Utd v Brighton (North Seaford Reserve), Baxter v Monash Uni (Baxter Park), Casey Panthers v Somerville Eagles (Prospect Hill Reserve).
SATURDAY 7pm: Heatherton Utd v Frankston Pines (Bosnia & Herzegovina Centre).
SUNDAY 3.15pm: Southern Utd v Box Hill Utd (Monterey Reserve, U12s 9am, U14s 10.15am, U16s 11.40am, U19s 1.15pm).