HEIDELBERG UNITED have moved into the Foxtel Cup top six after defeating a winless Frankston Pines 1-0.
Heidelberg coach George Katsakis had prowled the sideline animatedly as his side struggled to break down a determined Frankston defence, despite their overwhelming early dominance.
But they went ahead in the 25th minute after Trent Malcolm’s foul on Daniel Jones left the referee with little choice but to point to the spot, allowing Graham Hockless to score with a well-taken penalty.
It had been an electrifying start from the home side as they tore into a nervous Frankston, a team who have thus far struggled to adjust to their first season in the top flight, remaining winless after 10 rounds.
The Warriors began the match by launching a series of sweeping attacks that had Frankston on the back foot from the kick-off.
The first of those attacks came after Mark Tsiorlas swiped at a Jim Drossos corner with barely three minutes on the clock, but he misfired with an attempted volley that sailed well over the bar.
Eric Vassiliadis was the hero here last season when he stunned the Whittlesea Zebras with a spectacular long-range strike, but he was unable to repeat his heroics this time round, instead spraying his shot wide after shooting from distance.
Tsiorlas threatened again in the 13th minute after rising unchallenged to meet another Drossos corner, but his headed shot went disappointingly wide.
Vassiliadis then capped off a marauding run down the left wing with a low cross that found Denis Alilovic inside the Frankston area, but the striker’s effort went inches wide of the post.
Amir Ameti took to the field in the 29th minute to replace Robert Liparoti, who left the field with a suspected knee injury, but the setback didn’t appear to distract the home side, who continued to push forward at every opportunity.
The first-half finished in spectacular fashion as both sides went on the attack.
Hockless tore through the Frankston defence in the 41st minute and should have scored his second of the match, but he was denied by a fine reflex save from Gary Pinter at his near post.
Tsiorlas had a glancing header cleared off the line by Ross Duckworth in the 43rd minute, allowing the Pines to counter quickly and launch their own assault on the Warriors’ goal.
Craig Metcalfe struck from outside the box, only for the Warriors’ James Stefano to clear the danger at the far post.
The Pines might have drawn level in first-half injury time after Peter Gavalas failed to hold onto Adam Fedljevic’s powerful free-kick, but Simon Mur was unable to convert the rebound.
The second-half opened at a frenetic pace, with both sides creating a number of scoring opportunities.
Mur was left to rue a golden opportunity for the visitors in the 69th minute, winning the ball off Stefano and thundering in on goal, only to send his attempt horribly wide.
Despite their best efforts, Frankston was simply unable to break down a resolute Heidelberg defence.
Alilovic should have put the result beyond doubt with a close-range strike in the 94th minute, but he failed to convert yet again, giving the home fans another nervous minute before match official Ned Kerkez brought proceedings to a close.