Trinidad and Tobago international Kevin Nelson was on target tonight, giving South Melbourne a hard fought 1-0 win over Fawkner-Whittlesea at Bob Jane Stadium.
The story of the night was Blues coach John Markovski starting up front for his side which was ravaged by a number of last minute withdrawals due to injury and in one case personal reasons.
The lumbering striker made his presence known amongst the South defenders from the start but he soon appeared to tire, particularly in the second half where he floated from position to position on the pitch.
The first half was a hard slog for both sides. South’s Arthur Tsirtsakis was cautioned after an Aussie Rules style hip and shoulder on an opponent. It did nothing to stop his tenacity though as he darted forward with great frequency only to blast several speculative shots well wide of Blues keeper Kyriakos Gerohristodoulou.
Fawkner-Whittlesea’s best chance came when a sloppy Tansel Baser back pass was pounced upon by Mark Tsiorlas who shot wide of South custodian Dean Anastasiadis, leaving the match scoreless at half time.
Arthur Tsonis and Markovski came close to blows shortly after the break, seeing their team mates almost unanimously join in on the shoving match. The referee issued several cautions and South came out of the fracas the more energised, spending much of the next 20 minutes on the attack.
Nelson had a golden opportunity when charging towards the Blues defence, but his touch in trying to round Gerohristodoulou was too heavy and John Angelovski’s diving effort saved a goal for his side. The keeper was cautioned moments later for time wasting.
Fernando De Moraes came into the game with some brilliant by-play around the middle of the park, setting up team mates on a handful of occasions and shooting on his own with no goal mouth success. Then, in the 83rd minute, the home side struck when a beautifully weighted Scot MacNicol cross from the right met an unmarked Nelson who headed the ball home.
It was a dream debut for the West Indian who was only told he could not play in the opening round blockbuster against Heidelberg last week moments before the game. His clearance issues subsided this week and he delighted the majority of the Bob Jane Stadium crowd with his well timed finish.
Markovski substituted himself with just minutes remaining and the Blues had a couple of their scarce genuine second half scoring opportunities in the dying minutes but it was to no avail, as South Melbourne held on and kept their perfect Vodafone Cup record in tact.
Fawkner-Whittlesea have now dropped their opening two games and they will enjoy an eight day break before their home game against the high flying Oakleigh Cannons at Epping Stadium on Monday week. Markovski’s injury ravaged team will no doubt benefit from the lay off.
South Melbourne trek to the Grange for a Friday night clash with Kingston City.
SOUTH MELBOURNE 1 (Nelson 83') - FAWKNER-WHITTLESEA BLUE 0
HALF TIME 0-0
Crowd: Aprrox 2,000 at Bob Jane Stadium