St Albans Saints close in on title

St Albans
St Albans' Jordan Wilkes. Picture Shawn Smits

By Lance Jenkinson

St Albans Saints have one hand on the National Premier League Victoria 2 west title.

The top-of-the-ladder Saints need only draw their final-round game against Melbourne Victory at Churchill Reserve this Saturday to be crowned champions and earn automatic promotion to NPL top flight.

The Saints will confront an in-form Victory side that has played a part in helping the Saints remain on top of the ladder.

Saints coach Kruni Razov and his players will not take Victory lightly.

“Victory beat [fourth-placed] North Geelong last week and drew with [second-placed] Moreland Zebras today, so we know it’s not an easy task,” he said. “But we’ve put ourselves in a very good position.”

St Albans executed a come-from-behind 2-1 win over fellow contender Werribee City at Churchill Reserve on Sunday.

The Saints trailed by a goal after 22 minutes following an exquisite counter-attack goal from Werribee City’s Shaun Hodor.

It was the difference between the two sides at half-time, but Razov was not panicking.

“We were the dominant side,” he said. “It was just keep playing the way we were.”

St Albans struck back immediately after the break.

Joseph Monek produced a beautiful corner to find the head of Jordan Wilkes, who powered it low and hard into the bottom right corner.

The Saints aggressively pursued a winning goal – and that finally came late on in the 89th minute.

Monek steered in a free kick to the far post and Marko Bagaric was on hand to square his header to Michael Grgic, who scored the winner with a tap-in.

Razov felt his team deserved all three points because of its industrious play in the second half.

“I thought we were hungrier,” Razov said. “We took risks and we kept pressing forward to find that winner.”

Monek’s two set pieces proved the difference in the game.

His form for the Saints in recent weeks has been impressive.

“We use him a lot [from the set pieces],” Razov said.

“We work on his delivery and we want them whipped in with a bit of vengeance so we can get on to the end of them. The last few weeks, he’s been fantastic.”

Wilkes and Josip Konyit were outstanding in the heart of the St Albans defence. Stefan Barcevic, who has had an injury-interrupted season, played a key role in the central

After the heartbreak of bowing out of last year’s play-offs, St Albans will be keen to avoid the play-offs again this season and earn promotion with a point next week.

Should the Saints lose, at worst they will be in the play-offs.