Thunder respond from thrashing with comfortable win

Ali Sulemani scored Dandenong Thunder's third goal on Saturday. 391078 Picture: DANDENONG THUNDER

By Marcus Uhe

A comfortable win over relegation contenders St Albans at home on Saturday afternoon has eased pressure on Dandenong Thunder in the National Premier League (NPL) Victoria.

Without a win in its previous four matches and coming off an 8-0 drubbing the week before against Avondale, a clean sheet at home helped the Thunder record a 3-0 win, and will be seen as the start of getting the campaign back on track.

Thunder played with aggression and intent early in the contest, eager to make amends for last week’s embarrassment and the home side’s assertiveness was rewarded in the 12th minute from a set piece.

A flicked header from a corner directed at the near post was blocked by St Albans stopper Jasmin Keranovic but the danger wasn’t eliminated in the six yard box.

Defender, Mersim Memeti, who had pushed higher up the wings in the early stages, was in the right place at the right time, capitalising on the lose ball to poke home his first goal of the season from close range with his left foot.

Within minutes the home side had a 2-0 lead, with Wade Dekker nailing his fourth goal of the season from point blank range.

Memeti had a hand in the second goal, playing a delightful through ball into space for Daniel Dixon charging down the left wing and encroaching on goal.

One steadying touch was all that was required for the winger before hooking the ball back to the mouth of goal, where Dekker was closing, and made no mistake.

St Albans lifted its intensity after the early onslaught of pressure but failed to find a way through Pierce Clark and the Thunder defence.

Dekker nearly added a second late in the first half, but a powerful strike from close on goal sailed over the crossbar.

He was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after a dangerous sliding challenge in stoppage time, frustrated after being dispossessed.

The score read 2-0 for much of the afternoon until captain Ali Sulemani buried a third with a missile from distance in stoppage time.

After another Dekker run was intercepted by a St Albans defender, Sulemani swooped on a ball in dispute and rifled a shot into the bottom left corner from distance, leaving the stunned goalkeeper with no chance of getting a glove on it.

3-0 was how the scoreboard read when the referee blew time, confirming a return to the winner’s list for Thunder.

Thunder managed to keep a clean sheet for the first time all season, a significant outcome in their fight to repair the damage of previous weeks on the goal difference tally of the NPL table.

Thunder is equal third for most goals conceded (24) and has the fourth-worst goal difference (-11) after 11 weeks of action.

Clark was seldom called upon, with few, if any, St Albans shots threatening his net.

Dandenong welcomes Melbourne Knights to George Andrews Reserve on Friday night in the last of a three-game home stand.