Box Hill United stole a fighting point off NPL2 champions Dandenong City at Wembley Park on Saturday. Goalkeeping heroics, near-misses, and a comeback goal – United’s final match of 2018/19 had it all.
Dandenong took the initiative through Gregory Lombardo’s arcing header, while the hosts levelled via Alexander Schroen’s opportunistic finish.
United soaked up the early pressure from a determined City, who ruffled the side-netting on nine minutes through Daniel Jurina.
On 14 minutes, Schroen nutmegged his marker perfectly, only for Dandenong goalkeeper Brandon Osipov to smother the danger inside the 6-yard box.
After the half-hour mark, Andrew Le Page sold two Dandenong defenders a perfect dummy before trying his luck from distance but shot narrowly wide.
Moments before the break, Caleb Ludlow dispossessed a Dandenong defender outside the area, but an onrushing Osipov saved his effort.
After a scoreless first-half, the onus was on both sides to up the ante in the second. The visitors were first to it, which led to their 54th-minute opener. Lombardo guided a looping header home from a corner to hand the Zeljko Kuzman-coached side the lead against the tide’s turn.
Vanega’s men regained their composure soon, and midfielder Nicholas Kokolakis tried to chip one over Osipov, who somehow gathered the ball.
Then a sweeping move down the left on 63 minutes led to United’s equaliser. After Ludlow had hit the post, Schroen popped up with his vital strike off the rebound.
The game’s final quarter belonged to Box Hill custodian Matt Nemes, who bravely denied City frontman Ben Everson twice in one-on-one situations. Nemes’ defensive colleagues aptly complemented him with crucial clearances off successive Dandenong corners in the injury time.
At the other end, substitute Dylan Tate rattled the crossbar with a thumping free-kick in what proved to be the last action for Vanega’s men this season, who finished the campaign with a three-match unbeaten run.
Box Hill United starting XI: A Del Monaco ©, R Go, D Hall (V Tsoumpris 53’), D Ilescu (M Pochi 76’), N Kokolakis, T Lakic, A Le Page, C Ludlow, M Nemes (GK), P Petreski, A Schroen (D Tate 80’)
Unused substitutions: L Gavalas (GK), C Goulding