By Roanna Sanelli
Photo: Steve Starek
The St Albans Saints lost to the Melbourne Knights 3-1 at Knights Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It was the final game of the season and despite their relegation status, the Saints hoped to finish the season on a positive note.
Matthew Cundari and goalkeeper Nikola Kostadinoski both returned to the starting eleven for the clash after being benched in the previous fixture.
As expected, the match began in a physical fashion with both sides aiming to act early and continually place pressure on all exchanges.
Yet, it was the visitors whom gained the early advantage via a Cundari strike which caught the keeper off-guard.
The goal appeared to have boosted the morale and tempo of Dinamo but the Knights soon equalised to level the proceedings.
While the Saints’ defence was key in preventing most goal attempts, at times the pace of the hosts on the flanks would test the Dinamo back line and force Kostadinoski to make stretching saves.
Prior to the break, it was Joseph Monek who inched close to placing his team in the lead yet his strike from distance travelled wide of the right post.
Dinamo continued their goal search in the second, as Cundari was again the protagonist but his final shot travelled over the cross-bar.
Yet it was at this point that the minor errors began to creep into the play of the visitors despite a consistent Saints defence.
However, their play began to unravel following a penalty awarded to the hosts following a Daniel Slovacek mistimed tackle in the box.
The subsequent conversion gave the knights the crucial lead as mistakes continued to flaw the efforts of the Saints in the first term.
Moments later, Adrian Tardio added a third to the Knights’ scoresheet and secured their final three points of the year.
The result brought a close to the NPL season and confirmed an NPL2 return for the Saints in 2018, whom after a rollercoaster year, appear to be a more united playing group than ever.