Western Eagles stumbled for the first time in seven games in the Football Federation Victoria men’s State League 4 West on Saturday, but it remains hell-bent on finishing the season in the top half of the table – or better.
The Eagles, sitting eighth with 17 points, made a miserable start to the campaign, picking up just one point in their opening three games, but have been one of the form sides of the competition since, until Saturday’s narrow 2-1 slip-up to promotion contenders Point Cook at the Polish Sports and Recreation Complex.
Eagles coach Daniel Krasic is confident his side can return to the form that saw it go undefeated in six games prior to the Point Cook loss and have a strong ending to the season.
“We’re definitely targeting a top half of the table finish,” Krasic said.
“We’re still an outside chance of getting to promotion – that’s probably the ultimate aim – but definitely our aim is to finish in the top half of the table with a view of being a contender next year as a worst-case scenario.”
It was a slow burn at the start of the season for the Western Eagles.
The Eagles had an unusually late recruiting spree and had a number of key players missing for the season opener, the effect of which lingered into the following games.
Conceding a whopping 12 goals in the opening three games had the Eagles behind the eight ball from the word go.
“We started the season slow for various reasons,” Krasic said.
“We started late with our squad coming together and guys were signed basically just prior to round one.
“We’re sort of still learning a little bit now because we’ve picked up some new players late.”
The Eagles second leading scorer, Jack Karyakos, was out for the first three rounds, which robbed the team of much-needed offensive threat.
The side’s best defender, Lukasz Lewinski, was also absent in that time.
Since that pair has returned for the Eagles, results have improved considerably.
Karyakos has scored six goals and formed a lethal two-pronged attack with Matthew Lodkowski (seven goals).
Lewinski has added a bit of steel to the defence, which has conceded just eight goals in the past seven games.
The additions of goalkeeper Kane Manicaro and striker Sasa Opacic has provided much-needed depth.
The double swoop from Westgate was brought about following injuries to captain Charles Mizzi and goalkeeper Dean Hili.
Murray Haining has stepped up in the captaincy role since Mizzi’s leg injury.
If there is one aspect holding the Western Eagles back, it is their predictability in front of goal. There is too heavy a reliance on Karyakos and Lodkowski to provide the scoring threat.
“We’ve had other guys scoring, but not regularly enough,” Krasic said.
“We’ve become a little bit too predictable.
“We’re looking at Sasa [Opacic], Leon [Theodoropoulos] and Ange [Soumbassis] to give them a few more goal-scoring opportunities and be more attack focused.”
Western Eagles will make the short trip to North Melbourne Athletic on Saturday before returning home for their historic 1500th club game when they host Altona North at Albion on July 15.
It promises to be one of the marquee days in the Eagles history, which dates back to their establishment in 1950.
“There’s a lot of things being planned, so there’s a heavy focus on getting the old players down for that day and having a bit of a celebration for the club,” Krasic said.