IF JAMIE Skelly thought about his debut as an NPL senior coach he’s unlikely to have imagined a more positive scenario.
It’s the second minute of the season opener and Skelly’s newlook Langwarrin is facing NPL heavyweight Bentleigh Greens at Lawton Park.
Luke Goulding sends a long ball forward and quicksilver Tom Youngs reads the defender’s intended header back to Greens keeper Andrew Withers.
Youngs nips in and wins the ball and Withers flattens him.
Referee Jackson Landy points to the spot, Youngs converts and it’s a dream start for Skelly’s men.
Five minutes later any remaining naysayers among the large crowd are silenced.
Young midfielder Jacob Brito is bodychecked wide on the right.
He takes the resultant free-kick and swings the ball into the area where big Lucas Portelli heads it in.
It’s 2-0 to Langy and the Greens are reeling.
The visitors never recovered.
Unable to put Langy keeper James Burgess under significant pressure and unable to break down a home team defence superbly marshalled by experienced recruit Luke Adams the Greens started this one as favourite but went back to Kingston Heath Soccer Complex a well-beaten side.
Langy full-backs Luke Goulding and Japanese recruit Ryo Takahashi had fine games but the standout was the central defensive pairing of Adams and Portelli.
And the use of four at the back was a significant departure from the five in defence so often seen at home games last season.
Skelly showed confidence in his players and a boldness in his selection of two 20-year-olds in midfield – Brito and Sri Lankan international Barath Suresh – to accompany captain and defensive midfielder Rogan McGeorge.
It’s been some time since Langy had such an experienced bench featuring as it did James Kelly, Callum Goulding and Charlie Fry.
And Skelly’s counterpart, Greens boss David Chick, was the first to blink bringing on former Langy favourite Kieran Dover at half-time.
Eventually Chick would make five substitutions to no effect, get yellow carded along with his goalkeeping coach and watch with dismay as his much lauded Swedish recruit Lars Anton Kanninder had a late (and highly questionable) penalty saved by Burgess.
But Portelli had Kanninder in his back pocket long before that and Langy had put the result out of the Greens’ reach in the 57th minute.
Suresh quickly played the ball to Youngs who motored towards the Greens’ area.
Youngs struck a low shot that Withers parried into the path of Brad Blumenthal and he couldn’t say no to such a generous offering.
In the midst of the euphoria that engulfed Lawton Park at the final whistle last Saturday evening there also was pragmatism, a realisation that just one small step in a season-long journey had been taken.
The setting is the same this Friday evening but the opponent is different and the history between Langwarrin and Eastern Lions should ensure a good crowd and a lively contest.
Eastern Lions is coached by former Langy striker Chris Greechan but it’s unlikely that a welcome home sign will be posted in his honour at the entrance to the complex.
Friday’s match kicks off at 7.30pm.
The under-23s clash will take place on Saturday 17 February at Lawton Park starting at 12.30pm.
Here are last weekend’s Dockerty Cup/Australia Cup results:
Mount Eliza 3 South Yarra 0 (forfeit); Aspendale 3 (Dominic Paul, Ben Garside, James Macnab) Knox Utd 4 AET; Chelsea 4 (James Stinson 2, Adam Bartosy, Lachie Davies) Alphington 0; Lyndale Utd 4 Mount Martha 0; Westside Strikers Caroline Springs 1 Mentone 1 (Marcus Spivey) AET WSCS won 10-9 on penalties; East Kew 8 Seaford Utd 1 (Ayuen Leuth); Rosebud 0 Greenvale Utd 2; Shepparton South 0 Baxter 1 (Ryan Brown).
Eight local clubs took part in the first prelim round of the nationwide competition and just three progressed to round two.
Chelsea was an impressive winner with English striker James Stinson adding to his growing reputation with another double while South Yarra was a no-show giving Mount Eliza automatic qualification to the next round.
Baxter was undaunted by a 500km round-trip on Sunday to face Shepparton South in oppressively hot conditions and returned to the peninsula a 1-0 winner.
The decisive moment came in the 72nd minute when an Aleks Dukic corner was headed in at the back post by Ryan Brown who joined Baxter from Somerville a few weeks ago.
Of the local losers an undermanned Rosebud proved ineffective in attack against Greenvale United which featured some talented Timorese players.
But the ’Buds are expected to solve their problems up front shortly and former Mornington and Baxter signing Nathan Yule will be part of that solution.
Here are the results of some local friendlies:
Doveton 2 Mornington 3 (Rory Currie 2, Conor Wharton); Dandenong South 1 Peninsula Strikers 0; Peninsula Strikers reserves 1 (Jai Power) Doveton U23s 1; Somerville Eagles 5 (Marcus Anastasiou 4, Joe Simmons) Monash Villareal 1; Casey Comets 2 Skye Utd 2 (Shaber Noor, Keita loka); Beaumaris 0 Mornington 3 (Rory Currie, Ryan Paczkowski, Conor Wharton).
Mornington has shown impressive form with wins against VPL2 clubs Doveton and Beaumaris in the past week while clinical finishing and a four-goal haul for Marcus Anastasiou underpinned Somerville’s 5-1 win over Monash Villareal on Saturday.
The scoreline suggests that the Eagles were well on top but it was a very competitive contest.
Tom Hennessy brought down the Monash winger early in the clash and the visitors converted the resulting penalty.
Somerville didn’t stay behind for long when Marcus Anastasiou was brought down in the box after a brilliant nutmeg on the Monash full-back and converted a penalty of his own.
The penalty drama continued when Joe Simmons was felled off the ball after Monash’s keeper had already collected an over-hit pass and Anastasiou converted his second penalty to give the Eagles a 2-1 half-time lead.
Within minutes of the second-half restart Sommie was at it again.
After some nice link-up play down the left Anastasiou cut back a cross to the edge of the box where Joe Simmons smashed the ball home first time into the top corner.
Anastasiou once again found himself on goal not long after when a perfect through ball from Eli Masterson allowed him to complete his hat-trick.
But Anastasiou wasn’t done for the day and he broke down the right and played what seemed to be an attempted cross which managed to hit the back of the net to complete the scoreline.
Here are some upcoming friendlies:
Friday 16 February:
Lyndale Utd v Rosebud, Lyndale Secondary College, 6.30pm & 8.30pm.
Saturday 17 February:
Mornington v Nunawading City, Mahoneys Reserve, seniors 10am, reserves 12.30pm; Corio v Peninsula Strikers, Hume Reserve, 1pm & 3pm; Gippsland Utd v Skye Utd, Baxter Park, Warragul, 3pm & 5pm; Bundoora Utd v Frankston Pines, Hillsview Reserve, 1pm & 3pm; Baxter v Sandringham, Baxter Park, 3pm & 5pm; Casey Panthers v Chelsea, Prospect Hill Reserve, 1pm & 3pm; Somerville Eagles v Lilydale Montrose Utd, Westernport Athletics Track, 1pm & 3pm; Mount Martha v Mentone, Civic Reserve, 1pm & 3pm.