Bendigo’s best soccer clubs face an uphill battle to win the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League title.
Shepparton United is outright favourite for the championship after defeating Epsom 3-2 on Sunday.
United, in its first season in the BASL, has now beaten Bendigo-based heavyweights Eaglehawk and Epsom in the first six rounds of the season and holds a four-point lead at the top of the division one table.
“Shepparton United were very impressive,’’ Epsom coach Ryan Pollard said.
“They’re quick and they exploited our lack of speed. They’re a very well organised team and they know how to work the ball.
“They’re the team to beat for sure.”
Four goals were scored in an exciting first half.
Scorpions’ forward September Htoo opened the scoring in the fifth minute, but 14 minutes later Epsom was behind after the home team scored twice through Ghulam Hassani and Ermal Marku.
Htoo’s second goal in the 25th minute levelled the scores and Shepparton United defended stoutly for the remainder of the half to deny Epsom the lead.
Shepparton United took control of the game early in the second half when Hassani scored his second goal.
United’s 3-2 advantage stood for the remainder of the game. To rub salt into Epsom’s wounds, Htoo was shown a red card in the dying minutes of the match.
“The only opportunity in the second half Shepparton had to score they scored and then they limited our opportunities after that,’’ Pollard said.
“I was more disappointed with our loss against Shepparton South a few weeks ago. Against Shepparton United we stuck with the style that we want to play, but it just didn’t work out.
“Moving forward we have to keep working hard and see what the season brings. We’re confident we can turn things around.”
Epsom has slipped to sixth on the ladder – seven points behind Shepparton United.
Second-placed Eaglehawk won its third-straight match when it defeated Spring Gully 5-0.
Borough coach Greg Thomas scored a hat-trick in the victory to take his season tally to 16.
Nathan Hamblin and Jason Drew also found the back of the net.
Tatura jumped into third spot after it scored a hard-fought 2-1 win over Golden City at Shadforth Park.
A first half brace from Tariq Nikoi-Kotey gave Tatura a 2-0 advantage. Golden City striker Godwill Basha gave the home side a lifeline in the 50th minute, but the visitors held on to clinch the three points.
Strathdale moved into fourth place on the back of its 5-0 win over Colts United.
A Nick Watson goal in the fifth minute gave the Blues an early lead before the winless Colts dug in to deny their higher-rated opponents for the rest of the half.
Colts still had a chance to pinch a point until midway through the second half when the Blues blew the game apart with three goals in a nine-minute period.
Daniel Maierhofler completed the rout with his second goal in the 87th minute.
In the final game of the round, Shepparton continued Moama-Echuca’s dismal season when it won 13-1 at Vilbert Reserve.