Altona East Phoenix has produced some good football in the opening two rounds of the Football Federation Victoria men’s state league 1 season, but good just does not cut it in a league flush with big-spending teams rolling out high-profile recruits.
Altona East has succumbed to one-goal defeats in its first two games, cruelly leaving them in third-last spot without a point to show for their toil.
The Phoenix’s 3-2 loss to Keilor Park at Keilor Park Recreation Reserve on Saturday, a game that could have gone either way, demonstrated how tough points will be to come by in this competition.
Phoenix president Jim Dimitriou said the losses did not constitute a case for criticising the players.
“The guys have lost two games, but they certainly haven’t let themselves down,” he said.
“The way it’s going, it’s going to be a tough year. The boys will keep battling along.”
For the first 45 minutes, Altona East and Keilor Park went back and forth without fashioning too many clear-cut chances.
The 0-0 scoreline at the break was a true reflection of two sides desperate to claim their first wins of the season.
After half-time, things livened up on the back of a penalty awarded to Keilor Park after a shot was parried away by a Phoenix hand.
Joel Nikolic stepped up to put Keilor Park in front and then doubled the Parkers’ lead with a headed goal.
While down on the scoreboard, Altona East kept in touching distance in general play.
The Phoenix halved the deficit through Tristan Romein, who scored a header from a corner.
Unfortunately, for the Allen Vella-coached Phoenix, the side leaked a goal on the back of some individual brilliance from Keilor Park sub Supreet Sangha.
Joel Bistricki scrambled a goal back for Altona East after a shot rebounded off the post.
With Keilor Park down to 10 men following Nikolic’s dismissal for a second yellow card, Altona East huffed and puffed to find an equaliser, but could not blow the house down – and wound up losing by a goal for the second week running.
“The boys showed a lot of fight,” Dimitriou said.
“We just ran out of time when I thought we could’ve found an equaliser.”
There is no respite on the horizon for Altona East.
The Phoenix will face co-tenant and promotion favourite Altona Magic in a derby at Paisley Park on Saturday evening. Dimitriou concedes the Phoenix will go into the clash as underdog, but maintains the undefeated Magic should expect a contest.
“Even though they’ll start red-hot favourites, we’re not going to chuck it in,” he said.