Green Gully coach Arthur Papas has lauded the mental strength of his players, following a crucial 2-1 win over local rivals Melbourne Knights in the National Premier League Victoria at Knights Stadium on Friday night.
The Cavaliers silenced the home fans with the opening goal in the 35th minute through a powerful strike from Dylan Smith, but the Knights found a way back into the game with an equaliser in the 77th minute when Mehdi Martin pounced after a Josh Brekalo shot cannoned into the post.
It did not jolt the concentration or confidence of the Cavaliers, who found a way to claim all three points when Matthew Breeze headed home for his fourth goal of the season.
“It’s about the character of the group,” Papas said.
“So many occasions we’ve left it late, but we always come up with something and it says a lot about the group this year.
“I feel this team is playing as good football as I’ve coached with a team before.”
Green Gully is one of the hottest teams in the NPLV. The Cavaliers are undefeated in five games and have four wins in that time.
In their past 10 matches, the Cavs have lost just once, and they are now entrenched in the top six.
People will look to Green Gully’s stirring away win over South Melbourne five weeks ago as a turning point, but Papas believes the team was on an upward trajectory long before that day.
“It’s turned for us, but not because it wasn’t happening before,” Papas said.
“It’s not always the result, it’s the way we go about it.
“We’re an extremely good team to watch this year.
“I think we’ve dominated some games where I don’t know how we haven’t won them.”
Green Gully is six points clear in the top six with two rounds to go, but seventh-placed Oakleigh Cannons has a game in hand in next week’s catch-up weekend.
“We’ve got two tough games coming up against teams competing for the top six with us,” Papas.
“We’re under no illusions, the job’s not done yet.”
The Knights’ outcome is as good as sealed. They will almost certainly finish third last and go into a promotion-relegation play-off.
The Knights will travel to play bottom side North Geelong Warriors at Elcho Park on August 12.
Meanwhile, St Albans Saints have lived to fight another day, drawing 1-1 with North Geelong at Churchill Reserve.
The Saints came back from a goal down after Ryan McGuffie scored from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute.
The Saints days in the top flight are certainly numbered, with relegation a possibility of being confirmed when they step out next against Port Melbourne Sharks on August 13.
In NPL2, Anthony Laus scored a double in Sunshine George Cross’s 4-1 defeat of Brunswick City at Dunstan Reserve.
In women’s NPL, Calder United claimed a 3-1 win over Southern United away at Monterey Reserve to keep the pressure on leaders South Melbourne.