Nicolas Milanovic starred as Western United cruised to a 5-1 friendly win over Oakleigh Cannons at Jack Edwards Reserve on Wednesday night.
The young star got the ball rolling with the first goal and went on to have a hand in four of the five, with a hat-trick to himself and an assist to top it off.
Jacob Tratt chipped in with his first goal for the Club on a night where young players were given the chance to impress John Aloisi and his staff.
It was a very young starting XI selected by Aloisi with Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Tratt and Ryan Scott the only starters over the age of 22.
Academy graduate Jake Najdovski got his first minutes of pre-season while Sebastian Pasquali continued to build his fitness, and there were starts for NPL products Jordan Lauton and Abel Walatee.
United got off to a fast start with Milanovic going close on his opposite foot before Najdovski missed his kick from a cutback, also on his weaker right side.
But Milanovic quickly atoned for his earlier miss, coolly slotting into the bottom corner when played in by Pasquali, who had burst through the midfield after intercepting an Oakleigh pass.
Milanovic was lively in an unfamiliar left-sided position and was showing a willingness to cut in on his right foot, flashing another effort just wide of the right-hand post.
Pasquali and Lauton were assured in position in midfield, the former stinging the palms of the goalkeeper with a long-range effort before the latter scooped a delightful ball into Noah Botic who was promptly smothered before Oakleigh cleared Walatee’s follow-up effort off the line.
Milanovic was rewarded for his continued efforts with a second goal, though he may not have exactly meant it as his deep free-kick rolled all the way into the bottom corner after Noah Botic’s dummy fooled the goalkeeper.
It was three before too long when Najdovski picked up the ball inside the box, receiving on the half turn and burying a right-footed finish into the bottom left corner.
Tratt made it four just past the half hour mark with a thumping header from Milanovic’s superb inswinging corner before Oakleigh went up the other end and immediately pulled one back.
The goal gave Oakleigh an increase in confidence and they began to hold possession for longer periods in the first half and restricted United from creating any further changes.
There were three changes at the break as a trio of youngsters came off the bench – Thomas Alisandratos, Khoder Kaddour Zac Kocankovski coming on in place of Najdovski, Tratt and Lauton respectively.
Alisandratos was straight into the action, teeing up Milanovic barely five minutes in with a lovely cut back, allowing the No.26 to sweep the ball in from the edge of the area for his hat-trick.
Wearing the No.53, Alisandratos was lively off the left and allowed Milanovic to move into a central position, where he continued to wreak havoc on the Oakleigh defence.
Just before the hour mark, the 20-year-old picked the ball up on the right-hand side and went on a slaloming run, leaving a string of defenders in his wake before firing just wide of the target.
With United comfortably in the ascendancy, the speed of the game slowly began to drop but Aloisi’s men still continued to push in search of more goals.
Charbel Shamoon came on just after the hour mark and nearly scored with his first touch as he flicked on a corner at the near post, but the remainder of the match went by largely without any meaningful chances at either end.
The win continues United’s unbeaten run in pre-season, with five wins and a draw in the six friendlies to date.