A PERMANENT fixture at the top of the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League men’s championship ladder for much of the 2018 season, Strathdale has been sent packing from the top two.
A 1-0 loss against Shepparton United at McEwen Reserve on Sunday relegated the Blues to third place on the league ladder.
United took the lead in the third minute after a goal to Nikolaus Kalafatis and it was there the home side stayed for the remainder of the match.
Winning coach Roven Shaholli was delighted with the way his players embraced the challenge of playing one of the competition’s strongest teams.
“We’d been preparing for that game for the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“Strathdale is a really good side, we have a lot of respect for the way they play their football.
“They are pretty similar to us – they are a really organised and well-structured team.
“I don’t know what’s gone wrong for them recently, maybe a couple of injuries, but they looked to have a strong side against us.
“That moves us up to second; the ladder is getting really tight at the business end of the season.”
Shaholli said winning this year’s grand final remained his team’s ultimate goal.
There’s every reason to believe United are capable of achieving that, with no games remaining against a current top-five opponent and some key personnel, including last year’s best and fairest winner Ermal Marku, due back in the weeks ahead.
United trails top-side Eaglehawk by two points after the Hawks thrashed Shepparton 14-0 at Truscott Reserve on Sunday.
Boom recruit Alex Caldow slotted six goals for the Hawks, while Nathan Hamblin and coach Greg Thomas each added two.
Meanwhile, Spring Gully United moved up one spot on the ladder to sixth following a convincing victory against Golden City at Stanley Avenue.
The Reds, led by Alastair Merkel with two goals, defeated the Rams 7-1 to post their fifth win of the season.
Six Reds players contributed to the scoreline, with Merkel, Ben McBain, Aidan Lane, Samuel Nanere, Ethan Hunter and Josh Naunton (penalty) all finding the back of the net.
The win will give Spring Gully some confidence going into next week’s match against Shepparton United.
Lewis Coyle scored twice in Tatura’s 4-1 win against Colts United, while Kaine Humphries scored three for Shepparton South in a 6-0 win against Moama-Echuca Border Raiders.
In youth championship, Epsom kept its unbeaten record intact with a 14-0 demolition of Swan Hill.
Jonah Pisevski and Liam Christensen each contributed three goals.
Third-placed Spring Gully United took advantage of Shepparton South’s 4-4 draw with Moama-Echuca to move within one point of South in second place with a win against Golden City.
The Reds got three goals from their star Lewis Merriman in a 5-1 win at Stanley Avenue.
With Shepparton South’s Ali Hosseini restricted to just one goal, Merriman was able to join him at the top of the goal scorer’s list with 27.
Kyle Nicholls and Andrew Waters-Hughes found the back of the net twice each in Strathdale’s 5-1 win against Shepparton United.
At Truscott Reserve, Eaglehawk and Shepparton drew 1-1.
While you're with us, did you know you can now sign up to receive breaking news updates direct to your inbox. Sign up here.