Box Hill United’s senior men finished their 2019 NPL2 campaign on an unbeaten note, following Saturday afternoon’s 1-1 draw against Springvale White Eagles.
In a drama-filled encounter at the Serbian Sports Centre, Isaiah Joseph handed Box Hill the advantage in stunning fashion in the first period. But the hosts, despite being reduced to 10-men, equalised through a controversial second-half penalty from Nenad Nikolic.
Box Hill struck the goal-frame twice, and were kept at bay by Springvale’s substitute goalkeeper Luke Saunders on multiple occasions.
Under chilly conditions and not on the best of surfaces, both sides exchanged efforts early on. Box Hill’s midfield dynamo Andreas Miltiadou was thwarted by the Eagles’ custodian James Burgess on two minutes, while Springvale’s Alex Kubenko received a pass on the right of the penalty area, but the winger’s shot went wayward on eight.
However, after George Voliotis was fouled outside the opposition penalty area, Box Hill made their free-kick count on 16 minutes, as Joseph’s devilishly swerving left-footer rocketed into the net’s top-right corner.
The hosts recorded a riposte almost from the restart, but Kubenko ruffled the side-netting, and Milan Jovanovic fired a 20-yard attempt over the crossbar.
On 26 minutes, Burgess was given marching orders following a rash challenge on Box Hill speedster Delarno Pharoe, who had caught the Eagles’ goalie one-on-one following Rowan McNamee’s through pass.
However, as Saunders took his place between the sticks for Springvale, he was equal to Voliotis’ strong 20-yard shot, and also thwarted Joseph’s free-kick as Box Hill continued to boss proceedings.
Yianni Skliros in the Box Hill goal was called into action on 29 minutes, but emerged with flying colours against Jovanovic.
After the restart though, Box Hill conceded a controversial penalty, as the referee found Miltiadou guilty of a handball following a Springvale corner. Although Nikolic rifled home the spot kick on 51 minutes, he had to retake the penalty after the first one was adjudged illegal. But the Eagles’ no. 3 scored once more past Skliros the second time.
Intent on staging a fightback, Box Hill went on the offensive, but were repelled by the woodwork twice. On 55 minutes after a creative flag-kick routine, Joseph saw his cushioned attempt crash off the far upright; then left-back Nino Lacagnina cut in from the flank but struck the post five minutes later.
Box Hill continued to dictate tempo in the opposition half, and McNamee was twice close to finding the target, but Saunders intervened on 59 minutes, while a defensive block took the sting out his goal-bound effort on 81 minutes.
On their part, the 10-men Eagles now looked to soak up the pressure and hit on the break as the clock ticked down, and managed to test Skliros twice in the game’s last quarter.
An indirect free-kick from 35 yards saw Kubenko attempt a header from inside the Box Hill area, only to run into an impenetrable Skliros. And the Box Hill custodian was once more unstoppable with three minutes remaining, as he pawed Andrija Kecojevic’s 25-yard free-kick in the last major action of the match.
Box Hill United starting-XI: I Joseph (B Skliros, 71’), N Lacagnina, J Mammino (G Siamoa, 59’), R McNamee, A Miltiadou, D Nielsen ©, D Pharoe, T Podaridis, Y Skliros (GK), G Voliotis (A Mohd. Sarip, 71’), J Vun
Unused substitute: B Caballero (GK)