MATCH REPORT | Essendon Royals come undone against Banyule City SC at Cross Keys Reserve
The Essendon Royals endured as disappointing day at Cross Keys Reserve as they fell to a 2-1 loss to Banyule City SC.
Despite enjoying more than their fair share of possession through the middle of the park, the Royals struggled to find their killer instinct in the final third.
Joel Nikolic provided the highlight of the day with a brilliant strike from 20 yards out to give Essendon a glimmer of hope heading into the final few minutes of the game, but it proved too littler, too late for Vaughan Coveny's team.
Essendon started the game brightly but Banyule had the better of the opening exchanges, working the ball into some good areas.
In that respect, both teams were a bit like jigsaw puzzles for the majority of the first half – they fell apart inside the box.
The midfield trio of Michael Ferrante, Gaku Matsuda and Graham Kelly again looked like Essendon's best players in the first half, but their work was undone when an under hit back pass allowed Banyule's Tsiovas Konstantinos to nick the ball and finish coolly past the helpless Andre Jannesse.
The costly error put Essendon on the back foot, but Nikolic went closest to equalising when his header from close range struck the post and bounced along the line before being cleared.
Essendon went into the break 1-0 down and needed to find a response in the second half.
Again, they started the second half relatively well, but the lack of any cutting edge in the final third made penetrating the organised Banyule defence difficult.
Nikolic was a monster in the air again, winning flick-on after flick-on, but Banyule was able to react well every time.
It took the introduction of youngster Frank Agostino to inject some much needed life into the Royals attack and the youngster made an instant impression down the right wing, running at defenders with pace and looking to make dangerous runs in behind the Banyule defence.
Agostino had the ball in the back of the net not long after his introduction, but was ruled offside.
The chance fell to him following a terrific save from Douglas Lindberg in the Banyule goal, following a shot from Luca Santili.
Banyule punished Essendon for the missed opportunity soon after, as they caught the Royals on the break and stretched their defence with a lovely bit of play down the wing, opening up an easy opportunity for captain Kojo Brown to score.
Essendon pushed to make a contest of the game in the dying stages and created a number of half chances, but the reluctance of the Royals midfielders to pull the trigger anywhere near the box left the Essendon faithful wondering where the goal was coming to come from.
Nikolic's late and brilliant strike gave the Royals fans something to smile about and was no less than he deserved for his enterprising performance up front, but meant little in the grand scheme of things as the Royals were left to ponder another tough day at the office.
Coveny gave an honest appraisal of his team after the game.
"I said to them that I couldn't fault their effort or endeavor but I had to question their overall performance and as individuals," he said.
"I just don't think we were good enough.
"The intent was there, but the quality was just lacking."
With a week off next weekend due to the catch-up round, Coveny said there would be no holidays for the players.
"We've got the week off, but we'll be training right through," he said.
"After the week off we have a big game against Sydenham and we need to be better because they embarrassed us last time, so we need to be ready to give a response.
The Royals reserves provided some positivity on the day, however, with a fantastic 3-1 win in the earlier kick-off.
George Vasilakakos opened the scoring after 29 minutes and the Royals only needed to wait another 10 minutes for their second through Gabriel Beck-Godoy.
Banyule pulled a goal back in the second half, but substitute Josh Tabone made certain of the three points with a fine goal off the bench.