EXCLUSIVE: Northcote City coach Goran Lozanovski says there are no excuses for his side on Saturday when they tackle Bentleigh Greens in the chase to win their first ever Victorian Premier League Grand Final.
The league's showpiece event will be held at AAMI Park for a third consecutive year, a ground which has given Northcote fond memories in recent times.
City clinched the 2011 Mirabella Cup against Melbourne Knights at the stadium - their first piece of top-level silverware.
But now, after finishing top of the league and claiming a spot in the final after a 5-0 demolition of South Melbourne last week, Lozanovski’s men have the chance to do the double.
“We’ve worked hard all year long to make the grand final and we gave ourselves every opportunity to get in there and we did that on the weekend,” Lozanovski said.
“The club is buzzing and the players are really excited about the whole thing and especially coming out to AAMI Park and playing in this beautiful stadium.
“You can kind of get carried away and go ‘wow’, but once the first whistle goes everyone forgets about the surroundings.
“It’s a football game so everyone’s intentions are going to be to make sure they lift that trophy at the end of the day.
“It’s not about who’s watching, it’s not about the stadium in the end that will be all done and dusted after the first whistle.
“It’s a great stadium, great pitch and no excuses on the weekend.”
Northcote faced Bentleigh in the first qualifying final and went down 2-1 to a Ryan de Vries brace, but came back emphatically with a 5-0 win over South to book a spot in the final.
Although there was some controversy surrounding the outcome after this season’s top-scorer, Milos Lujic, appeared to foul South goalkeeper Peter Gavalas in the box, with the custodian falling over the line with the ball in his hands.
The referee flagged for a goal, a decision that outraged the South fans in attendance and flabbergasted the rest.
The goal made it 2-0 to Northcote at the time but Lozanovski brushed off suggestions that the decision changed the balance of the play.
“Nine times out of 10 the referee will call that as a free kick,” said Lozanovski. “It did look weak from where I was, it looked like Milos hardly touched him. Like I said most referees would give it (the foul).
“Was that a turning point? I’d probably say it wasn’t. A 2-0 score-line’s always dangerous especially coming in to the second half.
“If South got a goal straight away in the second half I dare say I would have probably changed the game plan a little bit, but we made sure we didn’t concede and scored a third goal and I suppose sort of opened up the game a bit more.”
Lozanovski though is not expecting the same sort of score-line against Bentleigh, and admits his side have a number of different game plans judging on how his opponents approach the game.
“Bentleigh sort of tactically played a different game against us a couple of weeks ago,” said Lozanovski.
“So we have to re-assess after the first whistle on the weekend. If they come out to play their usual style we’ll know what to do.
“If they don’t then we have to change it. We know what they can do and we’ll know after the first 15 minutes what they’re going to try to achieve.
“We’ve been talking about that from last to this week and hopefully the players can reset themselves and understand that after 15 minutes if we have to change our game plan we will.
“In the end it might just take one goal. We have to mentally prepare about that and be mentally strong that even if we do concede a goal we don’t go out there and starting chasing it and opening ourselves up.”
What: Victorian Premier League Grand Final
Who: Bentleigh Greens v Northcote City
Where: AAMI Park, Melbourne
When: 1pm kick-off