Melbourne Knights show courage

Melbourne Knights
Hamish Watson celebrates after scoring Melbourne Knights’ first goal of the season. (Mikko Robles/MKSC)

By Lance Jenkinson

Melbourne Knights are cherishing the point gained in new coach Stuart Munro’s first game in charge.

“Under the circumstances, you take a point all day,” Knights football operations manager Mark Ivkovic said.

The Knights earnt their share of the points the hard way, playing with a numerical disadvantage for most of Friday night’s 1-1 draw with Port Melbourne Sharks in the National Premier League season opener at JL Murphy Reserve.

A reckless tackle by Knights midfielder Mathew Breeze on Port Melboure’s Lochlan Reus eventually led to Breeze’s sending off.

Referee Adam Bavcar initially pulled out a yellow card as a punishment for Breeze, but with Reus in pain on the ground, he sought a second opinion from the referee’s assistant.

Bavcar changed his decision, pulling out a red card and giving Breeze his marching orders in his debut game with the Knights.

While initially incensed that the yellow turned into a red, Ivkovic was satisfied with the explanation given by Bavcar.

“I spoke to the referee at half-time and questioned why he gave a yellow first and then changed his mind to the red,” Ivkovic said.

“He said from his angle, Mathew Breeze got the ball, but then his assistant called him over and said it was a pretty bad challenge and it should be a red card.

“Play hadn’t re-started, so he changed it to a red card, which was probably the right decision in the end because it was a pretty poor challenge.

“I appreciate him explaining it to me and that cooled the situation down.”

Down to 10 men, Melbourne Knights did not simply roll over.

The Knights provided moments of excitement for their travelling fans and led right up until the fatigue of playing a man short took its toll.

A piece of individual brilliance from striker Hamish Watson had the Knights in front in the 68th minute.

After chasing down a long ball, Watson danced around the first defender, stayed upright after a slight bump from a second defender and coolly slotted home before a third defender could make a tackle.

“That’s why Hamish is one of the best strikers in the league,” Ivkovic said.

“He can create something out of nothing.

“When that ball was played to him, no chance you would think it would end in a goal, but he’s got a knack of knowing how to finish and he for sure put that one away Melbourne Knights seemed destined to take all three points, but a scrappy goal from Port Melbourne’s Francesco Stella levelled the game.

Knights goalkeeper Harry Cakarun rose to punch the ball away on a cross, only for it to land at the feet of Stella, who scored.

Despite impressive performances from Joseph Franjic in defensive midfield and Gian Albano in an attacking role, the Knights had to settle for a draw.

“It was disappointing to concede towards the end of the game when we probably could’ve seen it out, but you can’t fault the boys,” Ivkovic said.

The Knights will play their home opener against Dandenong Thunder on Friday night at Knights Stadium.

Meanwhile, St Albans Saints caused the upset of the opening round in their first game back in the top flight, battering a 10-man Green Gully Cavaliers 4-2 at Churchill Reserve.

Captain Michael Grgic, Anthony Poljak, Ollie Bassett and Matthew Cundari found the back of the net for the Saints.

Gully’s only two goals came from the penalty spot through Alex Salmon.

The Saints will hit the road on Friday night for a clash with Dandenong City, while Green Gully will be looking to atone in its Friday night home opener against Hume City