LIAM Baxter’s sudden return to Baxter and Donn Delaney’s unexpected departure as Peninsula Strikers joint senior coach were the main talking points leading into last week’s opening of the State League season.
Baxter was Frankston Pines’ top scorer last season but switched to Baxter Park in September then a few weeks later started training with Beaumaris eventually joining the Bayside outfit.
Their relationship ended abruptly early last week and Baxter celebrated his second arrival at the local club by scoring in its 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Baxter Park on Saturday.
The final scoreline was a good result for Chelsea given its opponent’s promotion ambitions.
“I was really proud of our boys,” Chelsea gaffer Carlo Melino said.
“We had just three players who had played more than 20 senior games so to come away with a point was a huge effort from such a young squad.”
South African striker Dylan Murchie who switched from Pines to Baxter in the off-season has been caught up in a visa issue after going for a holiday in his native country with no news of when he will return to Melbourne.
Meanwhile Delaney’s resignation was a shock as Strikers had given no indication of an imminent change.
The official reason for his departure is increased work commitments.
He only held the senior reins for one season and his win percentage of 55 per cent ranks him as the third most successful coach in the club’s history behind George Hughes and Russell Black.
In State 1 Mornington lost 1-0 at home to South Springvale on Friday night.
The Seagulls paid dearly for poor marking from a set piece in the 59th minute with a looping header from South Springvale captain Thomas Simos sealing their fate.
In State 2 Peninsula Strikers and Skye United drew 1-1 at Centenary Park on Saturday.
It was a frustrating day for the home side as it missed some great chances.
Strikers led early after Skye couldn’t clear a Cooper Andrews cross and Jamie Davidson poked the ball home.
Andrews and Cass Delaney should have increased Strikers’ lead but in the 72nd minute the ball was allowed to bounce inside the area and Skye’s Leo McLeod headed it over advancing Strikers keeper Ben Caballero for the equaliser.
From the restart Strikers strung together a series of passes and Riley Anderton would have restored their lead if not for an excellent save by Skye custodian Jonathan Crook.
In the 90th minute McLeod was sent off after receiving a second yellow card and will miss this weekend’s clash with Pines.
At Monterey Reserve on Saturday Pines and Mazenod drew 1-1.
Pines’ head coach Trevor Johnston was forced to rejig his line-up as Ryan Ratcliffe had not trained throughout the week, Anish Khem had played a few hours earlier in a Fijian community tournament, Christian Malgioglio failed a pre-match fitness test and Jai Power had done a backflip and returned to Strikers.
Johnston used Massimo Torre and Deniz Karabadjak as a new central defensive pairing with Tom Hawkins at right back and Keegan Grealy on the left.
Pines’ Colby Jones was the more active of the two keepers but the home side went 1-0 up after Aaran Currie was able to body his opponent and turn before finishing superbly just before half-time.
Mazenod’s second-half equaliser had an element of luck attached.
Jones did superbly to spread and block substitute Kaspar Fry’s point-blank shot but the ball ricocheted a couple of times falling to Fry again and he made no mistake.
Pines’ midfielder Ahmad Jawadi became increasingly frustrated in the second half and a reckless challenge in the 81st minute earned him a second caution and a send-off.
In State 4 Somerville Eagles defeated FC Noble Hurricanes 2-0 at Civic Reserve on Saturday night.
In the 4th minute Hurricanes keeper Michael Papagiannakis fumbled and the ball spilled into the path of Tom Simmons who squared it to Ronnie Krishnan to tap into an empty net.
A Conor McFall corner in the 55th minute found Connor Carson free at the back post and his header sealed the deal.
In State 5 Mount Eliza announced its arrival in State League ranks with a 2-1 away win over Seaford United last weekend.
Given the upheaval at the Emil Madsen Reserve tenant leading up to this clash it was a remarkable result.
“During the week I lost an assistant coach in Amir Osmancevic due to personal reasons, our senior goalkeeper Sam Green decided he didn’t want to be part of the club four days before round 1 and some other players had their work commitments reduce their availability for the season so we really had to reshuffle things across two training sessions,” senior coach Bryce Ruthven said.
Jake Hill took over from Green and after playing in the reserves match did a fine job.
Tyler White put Mount Eliza ahead in the 29th minute but a minute into the second half Josh Vega’s fine strike made it 1-1.
The winner came in the 78th minute with substitutes Jamie Powell and Matt Sestanovich combining for the latter to head past Seaford keeper Hayden Hicks.
Mount Martha opened its season in style with a 3-0 home win over Bunyip District on Saturday.
Mitch Hawkins’ low shot from the left of the area made it 1-0 in the 17th minute and he doubled the lead in the 71st minute after a great run down the right by Josh McMillan who squared the ball to Hawkins.
McMillan’s through ball led to Corey Riddle’s 88th minute strike to round off the scoreline.
It was a convincing display in which Mount Martha keeper Derren Elliott was not called on to make a save.
Mentone was another local State 5 side to start the season on a positive note with a 2-1 away win over Barton United last weekend.
The visitors dominated the first half creating numerous chances but at half-time only had Tyler Pollard’s 30th minute strike to show for their efforts.
A superb shot in the 89th minute by Masih Yaghoubi made it 1-1 but Marcus Spivey attacked a great cross from Joe Dunbar in injury time and the ball broke to Pollard who calmly stroked it home for the winner.
In other local results Langwarrin drew 3-3 with Brunswick City in their NPL2 clash while Rosebud beat Pakenham United 2-0 despite goalkeeper Colin McCormack being sent off early in the match.
NEXT WEEK’S GAMES
Friday 24 March, 8.15pm:
Pascoe Vale v Langwarrin, CB Smith Reserve
Friday 24 March, 8.30pm:
Frankston Pines v Skye Utd, Monterey Reserve
White Star Dandenong v Somerville Eagles, Greaves Reserve
Pakenham Utd v Seaford Utd, IYU Reserve
Saturday 25 March, 3pm:
Casey Comets v Mornington, Comets Stadium
Peninsula Strikers v Mooroolbark, Centenary Park
Baxter v Sandringham, Baxter Park
Endeavour Utd v Chelsea, Reema Reserve
Mount Eliza v Aspendale, Emil Madsen Reserve
Mentone v Rosebud, Mentone Grammar
Hampton Park Utd v Mount Martha, KM Reedy