NPL Victoria – Four turning points in Heidelberg’s title-winning season

Heidelberg United have won the National Premier Leagues Victoria title with two games to play, after their 4-2 win over traditional rivals South Melbourne in the sole game of last weekend.

But they have not been in charge of this league the whole way through, with Bentleigh Greens at one point looking as if it would be them finishing on top at the end of the season.

United have been a game behind of both the Avengers and the Greens, but there were certain points in the season that shaped Heidelberg as the team to beat. In this piece, we take a look at the key moments that mattered this season; the moments that have led to United retaining their minor-premiership in 2018.

Round 5: Pascoe Vale 2-3 Heidelberg

The ladder after round five was as fascinating as ever, with three teams all starting perfectly with five wins from five. Avondale and Bentleigh did not miss a beat early on, and it would seem as if Heidelberg would be the first to falter, turning the three-way perfect start into a two horse race.

Heidelberg were 2-0 and a man down at half-time of their round five clash against Pascoe Vale, a team that has shown that their home form all season is stronger than any other sides’.

What would happen in the second set of 45 minutes made that result widely regarded by many Heidelberg fans as the greatest win in the club’s history. It’s unclear what George Katsakis said to his side at half time, but it must have been something special.

Tom Cahill was the hero, scoring all three of Heidelberg’s second half goals to gain all three points for his side in a match for the ages. Cahill was so often the man of the moment for the Bergers in 2018, but this game was easily his best for the club.

Cahill’s three goal haul could have easily been five, with a penalty miss and a shot that cannoned against the woodwork in the first half being part of his eventful day at the office.

And it was sheer theatre, seeing him recover from his first half setbacks, and maybe if he had netted his two first half chances, his second half heroics may have not been required.

This was a game that showed Heidelberg have the credentials to take this season by the scruff of the neck – if you can come back from this, what can’t you come back from?

On top of the comeback, finishing the game with nine men gave the Bergers the belief that they really can go all the way;  it really was a pivotal point in their season.

Round 16: Heidelberg 5-2 Dandenong Thunder 

This match wasn’t as difficult as their one with Pascoe Vale, and it certainly was not as eventful, but they did come from behind in this one too.

It was not only the big come from behind win that United claimed on the day that made this round eventful, it was the other results around them meant that Heidelberg had finally overtaken Bentleigh.

Bentleigh suffered a loss on the Friday night to Pascoe Vale, funnily enough, which put pressure on the Bergers to win their game on Sunday. A brace and his only two goals of the season from Atilla Ofli would ensure the come from behind win was complete; three points that they never looked back from.

Heidelberg were able to capitalise on a Dandenong defence that have certainly shown how shaky they are, currently having conceded the most goals in the league.

The four goal second half was fitting of the way this game went, even throughout a first half that showed Heidelberg’s difficulties to hit the back of the net.

Bentleigh have not been able to get close to Heidelberg since this moment, and it proved to be one of the most pivotal points of the season.

Dockerty Cup Final: Heidelberg 0-2 Bentleigh Greens 

This loss was labelled simply as a reality check. With Heidelberg one point ahead on top of the NPLVIC ladder with a game in hand at this point, this game could have killed off the confidence of Bentleigh Greens, as well as being the icing on the cake for a team that looked likely to finish on top of the table come the end of round 26.

Fans were asked to stick by the side who had performed magnificently up to this point in the season, with history about to be made just a month or so later. But the loss that was seen as a missed opportunity, and the match was played to perfection by the Greens as they claimed their second Dockerty Cup in three seasons.

This was Heidelberg’s eleventh game in 40 days, and it may have been the fixture overload that comes with cup games and a long home and away season that took its toll on the boys in yellow. But rather than sink into the doom and gloom, this loss was certainly the wake-up call that it was labelled as by their manager George Katsakis immediately after the game, and it could have been a kick up the backside that Heidelberg needed. Their real revenge would have been going on from that disappointment to wining the league; which they now have done.

Round 21: Heidelberg 3-0 Bentleigh Greens

A game that almost sealed the title for the Bergers; it was the ultimate revenge for Heidelberg who defeated Bentleigh by three goals to nil, in one of their more convincing performances of the term.

Just 12 days after their defeat in the Dockerty Cup final, there is no doubt that the Greens would have been as confident as ever to reclaim top spot – a spot they had for most of the first half of the season.

This big win for United over their season’s arch-rivals put five points and a game in hand in between them and the Greens, and that may have buried the Greens’ hope, even though there were still five games to play after this point.

This clash was built up by both sides as the biggest game of the season, and it was the boys in yellow who were up to it on the 22nd of July.

A goal from Tom Cahill once again and a Harry Noon brace meant this game was over just after the hour mark; there would be no heroics here.

It was a strong performance from Heidelberg and despite what the result may suggest, a strong performance from Bentleigh as well. It just goes to show how strong Heidelberg were on the day, they were a team who simply didn’t look like losing this game.

This was true revenge. And a title-win for the Bergers was imminent. Now it’s on to the finals, where these two sides might just meet again.

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