If only the season began in May for Altona North in the Football Federation Victoria men’s state league 4 west.
If it could erase the opening month of the season, North would be getting nose bleeds from a lofty position on the ladder, not stuck with the middle tier of clubs.
Since a point-less opening month, a four-game block where they conceded 14 goals to their own four, North has been one of the form teams of the competition, winning eight, including Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Melton Phoenix at Duane Reserve, drawing two and losing just twice in 12 rounds.
Altona North president Riccardo Conte would like to turn back time to the start of April, but that’s not possible, so he can only marvel at the record since and wonder where his team would be if not for its poor start.
“We essentially started the season four weeks behind because we started to inject a fair amount of talent into the squad that didn’t hit the ground until two or three rounds in, so it took a little while for the team to gel and settle,” Conte said.
“Then you started to see the rewards there from round five onwards when we hit a real hot patch and started to see some good results.”
Altona North is better all over the park. After averaging a goal a game in the first four, they have upped the average to 2.16 goals per game.
Having conceded an embarrassing 3.5 goals per game in the first four, they have cut that back to just one per game for the next 12.
All of a sudden, the smiles are back on the faces of North supporters, the team is winning and it continues its rise up the ladder.
“We’re always creating enough chances, but once you’re conceding a fair amount of goals, you start to feel the pressure,” Conte said.
“We built the team from the back and started to really suffocate the floodgates that opened in the first four rounds.
“Once we rectified that part of the team, it allowed the front third to do what they needed to do and took the pressure off a little bit.”
Altona North’s best two-week period of the season came in wins over top five outfits Bell Park and Surf Coast either side of the financial year. Both of those games were 1-0 results, which is significant considering the opposition’s scoring power.
“Keeping a clean sheet in those games sends a bit of a message out to the league that we’ve rescued our season and are placed to finish top half of the table at least,” Conte said.
Conte’s top half of the ladder goal is the bare minimum. There is still a tiny chance of Altona North challenging for promotion.
“We’re in that undeniable position where we’re going to have to rely on results to go our way after that slow start,” Conte said.
“Our intention is to keep the points ticking over.
“We’re going to need some results to go our way to get into a position to think about promotion, so what we need to do is just focus on what we need to do in terms of getting our results week in week out.”
Conte has given the thumbs up to second-year coach Vince Loschiavo. He said he was sure the players were buying into Loschiavo’s game plan.
Conte is pleased with how the new leadership group is working. North abandoned the traditional captain and responsibility rotates between four trusted leaders.
“Our coach was quite keen to instil that into the senior group this year and the intention there was to share the load,” Conte said.
“We have more guys leading from the front.”
Altona North will be looking to continue its rise up the ladder when it renews its rivalry with Truganina Hornets on the road at Arndell Park Reserve on Saturday.