Melbourne Knights have run the Victorian gauntlet, defied the odds and booked their place in the FFA Cup round-of-32.
The Knights will be back on the national stage, having a ball in the pot that could mean there will be an A-League team in the opposition changerooms next time they step out for cup football.
Gazing into the future was on the backburner for Knights caretaker coach Marijan Cvitkovic when his side overcame South Melbourne 4-2 in an entertaining seventh-round encounter on Wednesday night.
“It was an amazing result and an amazing feeling around the club,” he said.
“The scenes after the game were just something I’ve never seen in my tenure at the club and a lot of people haven’t experienced for a long time. It was just a magical night for all involved.”
In their cup run, the Knights have risen to every challenge.
After a 7-0 mauling of lower league Mooroolbark, the Knights overcame a tricky mid-week trip to state league club Fitzroy City, winning 3-0.
The Knights faced Avondale, the hottest team in Victorian football, and came away with a 2-1 win after extra time.
That led to a derby with South Melbourne, with the Knights the better side over 90 minutes.
Amid a run of poor form in the NPL, the Knights decided to make a coaching change, surprisingly axing Micky Colina.
Cvitkovic stepped up as the interim player-coach and has steadied the ship.
“People underestimate how difficult this cup run has been,” Cvitkovic said.
Cvitkovic has been able to find something in his team – an unbreakable bond between the players.
“This group has an amazing ability and amazing spirit within itself,” Cvitkovic said.
“You go through years where you might be struggling and you don’t have that extra bit to get up, but the camaraderie in this group is something … we’re starting to believe in each other now.”
Hamish Watson was the star of the victory over South.
Watson became the first Knights player since the legendary Mark Viduka to score a hat-trick against South Melbourne.
“He deserved every bit of that hat-trick,” Cvitkovic said. “All of his goals were different with the way he finished … he showed his class and experience from playing in the A-League.
“I’d be surprised if he doesn’t end up back there [in the A-League] soon.”
Cvitkovic allowed himself a chance to dream about his potential next opponents in the FFA Cup.
A date with local A-League clubs Melbourne Victory or Melbourne City at Knights Stadium was on the top of his wish list.
“If we could get a Melbourne City or a Melbourne Victory at Somers Street, I think we’d wind back the clock with the amount of people we’d get coming to Somers Street,” he said.
“It would be a fantastic scene for Victorian football.”
Meanwhile, Melbourne Knights goalkeeper Harry Cakarun is set for a long stint on the sidelines after suffering a broken hand in training.
Jordan Gifkins was in goal in the Knights’ victory over South Melbourne.
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