Hoppers Crossing has an island all to itself at the top of the Football Victoria men’s state league 2 north-west ladder.
The Reds are feeling good about life after clinching a 3-0 win over Moreland United at Grange Reserve on Saturday that sent them four points clear of the rest of the competition.
While the position of power is comfortable for the Reds, the way they got there in treacherous weather conditions against Moreland was less so.
Coach Shaun Barbara concedes the game was far from pretty.
“Both teams weren’t able to play any free-flowing football because the conditions were absolutely horrendous,” he said.
“I thought the referee was going to call it off when we walked out after half-time.
“It was that dark, but I thought, ‘Don’t call it off now, just give us a bit longer’.”
Hoppers Crossing went to the break a goal to the good after Takuya Yoshimi found the back of the net.
Yoshimi has been a bit of a revelation since his promotion into the Reds’ team with goals in his past two games.
“He started for a second game due to a couple of boys being injured or away and he scored again,” Barbara said. “He’s really building into the squad.
“We’ve had quite a fairly cemented team on paper, but he’s been one of the boys champing at the bit behind the scenes, patiently waiting his chance.
“It was an absolutely sublime finish after Jason Hayne put him through.”
Steven Smart was a late inclusion for Hoppers Crossing because of an injury to Shuhei Hasgawa.
Smart scored the Reds’ second goal seconds into the second half.
From that point on, Barbara knew Hoppers Crossing could not be stopped.
“Scoring just before half-time and 12 seconds into the second half, it settled everything for us,” Barbara said.
“Then the conditions played a large part in assisting us because the wind was against Moreland … it made it difficult for them to play or kick balls long or try to get over the top of us, because it was coming straight back to them.
“That second goal was really important.”
Hoppers Crossing got a third goal through Hayne.
Just as important for the Reds was the clean sheet, with defenders Dane Garbett, Scott Robson, Brian Chesson and James Ballantyne giving little away.
The Reds went in with the mindset that Moreland United could be a danger game, but it was never really in the contest.
For two straight weeks, the Reds have kept a clean sheet and found multiple avenues to goal, so everything is clicking.
“Moreland had a few changes there, got a new coach,” Barbara said. “It’s always a testing time when that happens because you don’t know what you’re going to come up against.
“Are you going to come up against a team that is feeling a bit down on themselves or are you coming up against a team that is pumped and ready to go to impress the new coach?
“It was just a good day for us.”
Hoppers Crossing has won five games in a row and is playing with total confidence. Barbara expects the positive outlook of his team to continue when it travels to play a strong Fitzroy City outfit on Saturday.
“We’re full of confidence right now and rightly so,” Barbara said.
“We’re away from home, but we’re not going to settle for a point.
‘We believe we’re good enough and know and trust in the ability we have in the team.
“That’s the mentality we’ve adopted from the start and so far it’s put us in good stead.”
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