By Dylan Smith.
After narrowly missing the finals last season, the Croydon football club had high hopes coming into the 2023 season, but after managing only one win from their first seven games, languishing in second-last, they entered their round 8 clash against Montrose in a precarious position, entrenched in the relegation zone.
Keen not to let the year fall into obscurity, the Blues lifted against the second-placed Montrose, breaking a six-game losing streak in style and breathing life back into their season, a win that Coach Morris D’Alessandro says can ignite the playing group.
“I think it’ll give us good confidence moving forward. Getting a win against a really good side was so pleasing,” D’Alessandro said.
They’ve had their fair share of adversity this year with injuries and unavailability having a destabilising effect.
The club has had to reshape the way they played to suit the changing list.
D’Alessandro said some of the indifferent form was a symptom of the team adapting to a new game style, something they’ve had to tweak on the run and mould to the fresh faces in the team.
“Coming into the season, we had a few injuries and that sort of changed the way we wanted to play. This win was probably four weeks in the making. We had to tweak a few things due to personnel. We thought we were playing well for a while, but we saw the best of it against Montrose.”
Unsurprisingly, a few weeks with a settled squad and the performances started to turn.
An unchanged line-up from the side that lost narrowly to Mitcham in round 7 produced their best performance of the year, a sign for the coaching group that things are coming together.
“We’ve played some really good football over the last month without getting the wins. We didn’t want to be too reactionary with the side because we liked the improvement we saw. We decided to back the guys in and be patient.”
Trailing at halftime, it looked like another near miss for the Blues, but after wrestling back control in the third term, they steadied to record their second win of the season.
With the game in the balance, there were a few nervous moments for Croydon, but the coach was confident their preparation would come through.
“You have conversations in your football club when you’re losing games.
“Sometimes you can forget how to win. I think at certain times, we’ve been in games but haven’t been able to stand up at the end, so we’ve worked on that, and at the weekend, it showed.”
It was their leaders who stood up, laying the blueprint for the rest of the season.
“Fraser Smith was good all day, Jordan Lynch lifted when it was really important, and our captain, Phil Dixon, got us over the line.”
After their big win on Saturday, they aren’t ruling out finals, hoping this can be the impetus for a second-half surge.
“It’s such an even competition. You can turn up any day and beat anyone. If you get on a bit of a roll, all of a sudden, the whole outlook changes. We’re really optimistic about the back end of the year.”
Croydon takes on the undefeated South Belgrave this week, with the team looking forward to the challenge.
“They’re going really well at the moment, but we want to take on the best, and we think we can give them a really good game.”