FALCONS 2000 firmed as Gippsland Soccer League title favourites on Sunday following a crucial 2-1 victory over fellow league powerhouse Sale United at home.
Both outfits entered the bout undefeated, with Sale boasting a flawless 9-0 win loss record and Falcons harbouring one minor blemish in the form of a draw against Fortuna.
However the Morwell side put a four-point break on its East Gippsland rival in arguably the match of the season to date, sending the Birds to a welcome, if unfamiliar, perch at the top of the tree.
“Obviously it was a pretty significant game, we’ve never really been in this position at any stage over the years as in being on top of the table or thereabouts mid year. It might go a long way towards shaping the rest of the table at the end of the year,” Falcons coach Nick D’Alessandro said.
Sunday’s win backed up another pivotal victory against third-placed Moe in round nine, and left D’Alessandro optimistic about his side’s chances for the remainder of the year.
“We really sort of set out at the start of this month to get maximum results out of the four games we had, and very happy to have finished off a difficult period with a good win on Sunday,” he said.
“To be the only team that’s undefeated at this stage obviously gives us that sort of billing (as favourite) but… we still treat other games as important and we don’t want to be ruing that Fortuna game at the end of the year if we drop points anywhere else.
“We think if we play to our best we’re certainly the side to beat but you’re not always going to be able to do that.”
The first half against the Swans was an even affair, but Falcons were forced to rethink the game plan when an injury to young gun Gianni Salvatore forced his substitution.
The reshuffle ultimately played a part in giving the home side a lead as Jordan Kennedy, moved from full-back to striker, made the most of a long ball from D’Alessandro to side-foot home on the stroke of half-time.
The second half started with a bang, taking only 11 seconds for Falcons to double their lead.
From the kick-off, a long ball from defence was collected by D’Alessandro who astutely cut back for Jesse Kennedy to finish from close range.
The away side continued to throw everything forward and eventually brought themselves back into the contest with a long range Tommy Nguyen goal that made compelling viewing for the large crowd in attendance.
With time ticking away the Falcons’ defence stood resolute and ensured the home side took all three points.
“Sale was always going to come at us so it was a difficult test in the end when they got that goal and pushed us right to the wire,” D’Alessandro said.
“Happy we’ve sort of managed to make our home ground a bit more of a fortress this year which was one of the things we set out to do.”
This long weekend Falcons begin their defence of the Battle of Britain Cup with a quarter-final match versus Monash at home.
Traralgon City v Monash
Traralgon City and Monash shared the points in a 2-2 draw at Harold Preston Reserve.
The Wolves took the lead early when Chad Shelley cut in from the left and fired home in the 12th minute.
Wet and slippery conditions turned the game into a slog with neither side able to muster any good opportunities before the break.
The Roosters drew level early after half-time when Monash failed to adequately clear a corner and Aidan Bowtell blazed away from the edge of the area.
Within minutes City grabbed the lead; the Monash defence was caught flat-footed as Duach Duach raced through the centre and slotted home his second of the season.
The game opened up as Monash pressed for an equaliser and they were duly rewarded for ambition with Shelley on the mark again with 20 minutes remaining.
City ‘keeper Michael Bloss was his side’s saviour late in the match, shot-stopping well on two occasions as City held on for a share of the spoils.
Tyers SC v
TYERS finds itself above the likes of Churchill and Monash on the premiership standings for the first time in recent memory, after dismissing Trafalgar Victory 3-1.
Jake Budija scored a brace to continue his form in front of goal, netting his seventh in the past three rounds.
Fortuna v Churchill
FORTUNA continues to exceed its own pre-season expectations, occupying fourth after 11 rounds.
The Morwell side accounted for Churchill 2-1 at the weekend, with goals from Bailey Mangano and Ivan Vekic sealing the points.
NYU v Moe United
A MATT Shearing double denied Newborough Yallourn United derby bragging rights as Moe United won 2-1 at Burrage Reserve.
Mark Fairbrother again showed his value for the Combine, scoring the home side’s lone goal.
EGUFC v Olympians
OLYMPIANS brought three points home from the long trip to Bairnsdale, courtesy of a 2-0 win over East Gippsland United.
Heydan Cook and Jamie Pistrin netted for the away team.
Morwell Pegasus had the bye.