Altona Magic has taken authority over the competition after a significant weekend for the leading teams in the National Premier League 2 west.
Not only did the Magic record a 2-1 road win over Werribee City for their third straight victory, but second-placed Moreland Zebras left two points on the table in a draw with Ballarat City and third-placed St Albans Saints slipped with a loss to Whittlesea Ranges.
It leaves the Magic four points clear at the top of the table and running into some of their hottest form of the season.
“It has put us in a good position,” Magic coach Goran Lozanovski said. “For us to make a bit of a gap at the top and create a bit of breathing space, we have to be consistent.
“We just need to capitalise over the next couple of weeks and get some more wins, especially at home, where we’ve got two home games coming up against Nunawading City and Sunshine George Cross.”
It was not all plain sailing for Altona.
The Magic went a goal down to a desperate Werribee City after Jay Kelly scored to put the hosts in front at Galvin Park after 29 minutes.
The lead was short-lived as Magic attacker Robert Stambolziev pounced to scored just three minutes later from a goal mouth scramble.
Stambolziev, a former Australian under-20 international, who has been playing abroad in Greece, Cyprus and England and had a stint with Sydney FC in the A-League, is starting to show Magic fans why he is so highly rated.
“He had a bit of a break since he came back from Cyprus, so he’s taken a few games to get back into it again, but he’s starting to look good,” Lozanovski said. “He’s a good technical footballer, he’s got a great left peg. He’ll get better and better each week.”
The scoring dried up in the run-in to half-time, but it was not for a want of trying as Altona went in search of a leading goal. The Magic did not have to wait too long into the second half when Melvin Becket scored. Becket tapped the ball home after the City goalkeeper parried a Jon McShane header into his direction.
“It was an interesting first half, but the second half I felt we were quite dominant and should’ve had a couple of more goals,” Lozanovski said.
Lozanovski was proud of Altona’s willingness to scrap out a win.
Werribee City provided stern resistance, but the Magic players refused to leave Shaws Road without all three points.
“We dug deep today and showed a lot of character,” Lozanovski said. “We spoke about how good teams, how championship teams win these tight games.”
Troy Ruthven and James McGarry were outstanding for Altona both defensively and with the ball at their feet. Jordan Wilkes impressed for a second week at centre back.