Three ex-A-League stars are in line for their debuts, an intriguing battle of two prolific goalscorers, and it’s another Greek derby at Lakeside!

Melbourne Knights v Oakleigh Cannons

Friday 7.45pm – Knights Stadium

10th-placed Oakleigh have endured a turbulent season so far under former South Melbourne boss Chris Taylor, who has brought in several of his former charges, with very mixed results. The recent departure of Nick Epifano and benching of star striker Milos Lujic only underlines the fact that CT’s best-laid plans have gone awry.

However, the Cannons can count themselves unlucky not to have come away with a draw last week at Green Gully, with Harry White, Joe Guest, and goalscorer Wade Dekker beginning to click upfront. The form of goalkeeper John Honos, though, remains a concern.

The 5th-placed Knights came back from the brink against Dandenong Thunder last week to draw 3-3, with new signing Mohammed Awad scoring an outrageous goal. The return of prodigal son Caleb Mikulic from Austria is bound to give Mickey Colina’s men a further boost.

Prediction: Melbourne Knights 2-1 Oakleigh Cannons

Pascoe Vale v Heidelberg United

Friday 8.15pm – CB Smith Reserve

10th-placed Pascoe Vale had struggled to score goals so far this campaign. That was until they demolished Altona Magic 5-2 last week, in perhaps the most surprising scoreline of the season so far.

Heidelberg, meanwhile, missed their chance to gain ground on leaders Avondale with a shock 3-1 loss at home to South Melbourne. Emotions seemed to get the better of the Bergers as they lost both Reuben Way and Jack Petrie to red cards in the second half, but by then the damage was already done.

Heidelberg rarely lose two on the bounce, and will have a point to prove in Fawkner tonight. Despite Paco’s recent uptick in form, the visitors should get the job done.

Prediction: Pascoe Vale 0-2 Heidelberg United

Green Gully v Altona Magic

Saturday 3pm – Green Gully Reserve

Green Gully legend and former A-League defender Manny Muscat called time on his long career last weekend, but amidst the retirement celebrations, high-flying Gully could only cling on for a point against visitors Oakleigh.

The Keilor-based side has made positive media headlines in recent weeks due to winger Andy Brennan becoming the first openly gay male footballer in Australia. Brennan was a bright spark off the bench against Oakleigh, and has made his case for a spot in the first XI.

Striker Alex Salmon has 11 goals in his first 13 games for the club, and Gully have dipped into the transfer market to give him more service, with Preston Lions midfielder Matthew Breeze making the leap from State League One.

Newly-promoted Altona, meanwhile, have been hit hard by injuries. Ross Archibald is out for the season with an ACL tear, Sami Nour has struggled with his groin, and Dutch striker Michiel Hemmen’s ankle is a recurring, seemingly chronic issue.

It’s no wonder the free-spending new boys have dipped into the transfer window for reinforcements, with forward Hassan Jalloh and defender Kwabena Boahene arriving this week. Goran Lozanovski will not tolerate a repeat of last week’s debacle at Paco.

Prediction: Green Gully 2-2 Altona Magic

Avondale v Dandenong City

Saturday 3.15pm – Avenger Park

Top-of-the-table Avondale had not even trailed in a game so far this season – let alone lost one – until they were bested last week by the resilient and disciplined Bentleigh Greens. Teams are beginning to sit deeper and deeper against the Avengers to constrict the space in which the likes of Tasuku Sekiya and Stefan Zinni thrive, and targeting them from set pieces.

That’s the formula that Dandy City must learn from in order to pull off a huge upset and belie the 24-point chasm between the two teams. Hajduk have utilised this transfer window to full effect, bringing in ex-Melbourne Victory captains Adrian Leijer and Carl Valeri alongside Perth Glory poacher Brendon Santalab. All three could be in line for their debuts on Saturday.

Prediction: Avondale 3-1 Dandenong City

Hume City v Dandenong Thunder

Saturday 5.30pm – ABD Stadium

This contest is shaping up as the battle of the two frontmen – James Brown v Brandon Barnes.

Brown is joint top of the NPL Victoria scorers’ list with an astonishing 12 goals in 13 games. Barnes, meanwhile, has taken out the last two Golden Boot awards, but has only netted 7 so far – a long way below his usual prolific standards.

Barnes did put on a masterclass in his last outing, however, scoring twice against the Knights – including an impudent chip from the edge of the box.

One thing is for certain – there will be goals, and lots of them.

Prediction: Hume City 3-2 Dandenong Thunder

South Melbourne v Bentleigh Greens

Sunday 4pm – Lakeside Stadium

Say what you like about South Melbourne: it’s never dull.

13 rounds in, and they’ve already dropped into the relegation zone, sacked their coach, won against the old enemy, and beaten the reigning champions on their own patch.

With two impressive wins from their last two games and creative fulcrum Gerrie Sylaidos tearing up defences, Hellas are in an ideal run of form to take on the might of Bentleigh.

The win away to Avondale will stand as John Anastasiadis’ last masterpiece of NPL coaching for the season, as he takes up a position at A-League expansion club Western United.

Explosive winger Valentino Yuel has followed his coach in bidding a fond farewell to Kingston Heath and heading west.

Regardless, Anastasiadis has left his successor, John Gabrielson, with plenty of talent at his disposal. Central midfielder Mario Ilich headlines 5 new signings – Cai Tipaldo, Calvin Whitney, Futa Nakamura, and Michael Stark – the latter four of whom will all be vying for their first start.

Prediction: South Melbourne 1-2 Bentleigh Greens

Kingston City v Port Melbourne Sharks

Monday 8.30pm – The Grange Reserve

Rock-bottom Kingston City have won just one game all season, but will be looking to change that against the 9th-placed Sharks.

Concentration seems to be an issue for Nick Tolios’ side, with their coach growing increasingly frustrated with their concession of early goals. James Brown took under a minute to net the opener against them last week, and although Kingston fought back for a draw, the slow starts are undoubtedly costing them.

The Sharks have a solid defensive record, and have brought in Bentleigh attacking midfielder Brodie Taylor to help them create more chances. More reinforcements may be needed, however, to keep them out of a relegation battle this season.

Prediction: Kingston City 0-1 Port Melbourne Sharks



Josh Parish