IT has taken the better part of the Victorian Premier League season but Oakleigh Cannons are putting it all together.
The Cannons thumped lowly Southern Stars 5-0 at Jack Edwards Reserve on Friday night, signalling their rise towards the finals with just over a month left in the season.
Their biggest win of the season came on the same night that league-leader Dandenong Thunder needed a last-minute equaliser to draw 3-3 away to Bentleigh Greens.
The Cannons got their goals from five scorers and are showing the fruits of a late flurry before the transfer deadline. The side added veteran European players Casper Andersen, Rasmus Festersen and Lambros Honos along with Evan Christodoulou from Heidelberg United.
The Cannons have also adapted to new coaches Peter Zois and Bill Theodoropoulos after sacking Huss Skenderovic midway through the season.
Honos opened the scoring on 19 minutes, finding himself in a one-on-one with the keeper and calmly slotting a goal.
After a brief Stars fightback, Ricky Diaco turned at the top of the box and placed a left-foot strike in the bottom corner for a 2-0 half-time lead.
Festersen’s goal came from a brutally quick counter-attack after a Stars shot powered off the post. Festersen chipped the ball over one defender, then pushed it past the keeper.
Cannons midfielder Hayden Doyle got on the end of a chain of Cannons passes for the fourth before veteran defender Ari Dracos smashed home a left-foot free kick for 5-0.
While Cannons co-coach Zois praised his team as a “special group”, Stars coach Dean Hennessy made it clear the side he watched dismantle his team was good enough to contend for the title.
“Dandenong Thunder has been the yardstick all year but after playing them a few weeks ago and then playing Oakleigh tonight, Oakleigh has caught up,” he said.
“Dandenong and Oakleigh are the two best sides we have seen this season. The Cannons went and got three or four very good players from transfers. They have a lot of quality.”
Zois said his side had plenty of work to do but put in a full 90-minute performance responding to the challenge from the coaches at half-time to lift their play in the second half.
He also praised the defensive pairing of Ramazan Tavsanciouglu and Andersen with the pair repeatedly reading the Stars through ball and crosses then intercepting them.
The Cannons attack also looked difficult to challenge with the tailesman Diaco now surrounded by speedy winger Goran Zoric, the illusive Honos ghosting between midfield and attack then Festersen on the right.
“We aren’t relying on just one player to score our goals, you can see that tonight with five different scorers,” Zois said.
“Ari has scored something like two goals from four games, he must be getting nose bleeds being that far up the pitch.”
The Cannons face a tough away trip to face Hume City at Epping Stadium this Friday at 8.30pm.