By Jordan Kounelis
A surge of gilt-edged chances was not enough to separate two of the NPL’s top six teams on Friday night, with Pascoe Vale and Heidelberg United sharing the spoils in a one-all draw.
Flurries of opportunities at ten minutes to go couldn’t be converted after electric Heidelberg winger Sean Ellis opened the match’s account in the 19th minute with a long range free kick; the kind of strike which barely sailed above head height over 25 yards and arrowed in like a tracer bullet to the bottom corner, beating the fingernails of diving goalkeeper Alex Pavlidis.
That thing of beauty from the boot of Ellis was cancelled out by Paco’s own high voltage flanker, Matthew Lazarides, who angled his run centrally to beat the Heidelberg defence and stroke it low and across Chris Theodoridis.
The opening passages of the game made it seem like Pascoe Vale wouldn’t be ones for a cruisy start; manager Vitale Ferrante encouraging his team to claim the throne quickly.
But Heidelberg fired immediately with the Ellis goal; a strike which followed a scuffed attempt two minutes earlier from the same player.
Lazarides’ equaliser skittered in moments later.
Heidelberg enforced the high tide as the half drew out, gathering possession at a steady pace, controlling the midfield via Harry Noon, Lewis Hall and Adrian Zahra – the latter dropping in deep all night to begin his jolting runs into the final third – and their evergreen defence put a halt to Pascoe Vale attacks.
But Ferrante’s men weren’t to lie down to the pressure Heidelberg were applying.
As both sides tired, it was Lazarides, Adrian Talarico and substitute Marino Gasparis who provided energised runs, which gave the Bergers’ defence more to think about while limiting their attacking moments too.
A string of yellow cards induced quizzical cries from the fans when Davey van’t Schip and Tomislav Milardovic both went into the book after stern but civilised discussions with referee Paschalis Natis – this after Josh Wilkins was book for a ferocious tackle on van’t Schip.
It was soon forgotten about when both teams found second wind with ten minutes to play, building up to the game’s most climactic chapter as the clock thinned out.
A pair of chances from Heidelberg came first: a cross from Wilkins, tipped up by Alex Pavlidis and into the path of a stopping Andrew Cartanos header, only for the nod to be scooped over the bar.
Athiu followed suit with his own face-in-hands moment when he broke into the final third, only to accidentally swerve his shot from the wrong side of the boot, swinging it closer to the corner flag than the goal.
After potential match winning moments were wasted at one end, the Gods of football swung the pendulum back to Paco to see if they could conjure a winner.
Gasparis writhed free of his nearest defender but Theodoridis read the moment like a picture book – quick and easy – rushing out to smother the shot before it was even struck.
Van’t Schip would then be given the moments of the match: two instances in the space of two minutes, both finding him open and free of any defenders, both to the left of the penalty box, perfectly suited to a right footer.
One shot, aimed for the bottom corner but dragged agonisingly wide of the bar; and the second, a bit further out, hit low and into the welcoming palms of the goalkeeper.
The golden boot leader couldn’t add to his season total.
A scramble in the box ended the match – Pavlidis charging out bravely into the fray of wildly swinging boots to thwart any last minute strike Heidelberg had planned – and the game ended even.
Undefeated but unconvincing from five home games this clash, Paco needed a valuable home win to keep the ball rolling into the halfway mark of the season, but the points tally ticks over nevertheless as they stay in the hunt for a finals appearance later in the year.
South Melbourne at the Lakeside is Pascoe Vale’s next opponent in the following week, while Oakleigh is the next home fixture in a fortnight.
Updated 14:51 - 20 Jun 2017 by PASCOE VALE FOOTBALL CLUB