I’m not getting used to my poor predictions in our matches since the club underwent the recent personnel changes, but for the second time in a row – how wrong I was last week!
I don’t have many explanations for the Mariner’s poor form last weekend against Adelaide but to dwell on this too long would be to falsely take away from the fantastic performance The Reds put on and have been putting on now for some time. They fully deserved their win.
Admittedly Bernie Ibini was unable to finish a great opportunity when he found himself one on one with Reds keeper Eugene Galekovic early on, and a couple of other decent opportunities for the Mariners never fell, but to be honest, our result was a reflection of what we deserved on the night. In fact, we can consider ourselves lucky we were not on the end of a real hiding, as Adelaide were unable to finish several of their own glittering chances.
I’d like to say that the traditional Mariner’s character appeared when the chips were down, but it was strangely lacking. I’d like to be able to blame one or two of our players whose mistakes might have been responsible for our demise, but to be honest players who performed to the level of their own expectations would have been few and far between. After the match Phil Moss was very protective of his playing group in his comments but I draw the line at comments that we dominated the second half – that was simply not true. There is no doubt the Manager is responsible for looking after his players when things aren’t going so well, but equally, I believe he has a responsibility to the fans to be honest and accountable for our performances, good and poor.
There has been plenty of talk about the team’s inconsistent performances in recent weeks and this Friday night’s Wellington Phoenix game represents another opportunity for them to step up and prove they have what it takes. However with key players Matt Simon, Josh Rose and Nick Fitzgerald sitting out while suspended for yellow accumulation and probable replacement Brent Griffiths also suspended after receiving red in the weekend’s Foxtel National Youth League match, it’s a tough ask for them. On the positive side, Kim Seung-Yong will make his much awaited home debut in the starting side against the Phoenix after making a 35 minute appearance in last weekend’s Adelaide loss, and the suspensions will represent a chance for others to show what they can do. Matt Sim is likely to make his first team debut, replacing Rose at left back, and Glen Trifiro has been included in the squad and could make his first appearance for the club after both of them played a part in the youth side’s loss to Perth Glory over the weekend. Perhaps the most fascinating decisions for Moss tomorrow night will be whether to start Mitchell Duke or Mile Sterjovski to replace the missing Simon and whether to bring Captain John Hutchinson back into the starting side. Duke was held back from an NYL appearance on the weekend and plenty of fans have been calling for his recall to the line-up. The question is whether he is capable of playing strongly for the full ninety minutes or whether his pace is best used when things have slowed in the second half. For me, Nick Montgomery should be the first player selected and while the form of Anthony Caceres has been decent, there is no doubt there are leadership advantages in bringing Hutchinson back into the side. Regardless of which way these decisions go, those who miss out will only have to wait until Tuesday for the next opportunity to impress.
Things won’t get easier any time soon for the team, who travel to the Republic of Korea after their Friday night fixture to begin their AFC Champions League campaign against FC Seoul on Tuesday, and then return home to take on Sydney FC next weekend. Mossy will need to have a solid plan in place to maximise the use of his available troops and the suspensions mentioned above may end up being a blessing in disguise when it comes to keeping some freshness in legs for the upcoming tight schedule.
Wellington until last weekend were the form team in the competition, accumulating more points since the mid-point of the season than any other team in the league. Despite that form, they were unlikely cannon fodder in a one sided encounter with the last placed Melbourne Heart last weekend and they head into the Mariner’s match out of sorts and looking to prove they remain a threat for a finals position. With the dangerous Carlos Hernandez driving the Nix midfield, anything could happen.
So, with the Mariner’s desperate to restore some pride in front of the home fans and Phoenix looking to bounce back from last week’s embarrassment we have an interesting match on our hands. With Phoenix sometimes struggling with away games I am going to go with predicting a narrow Mariner’s win.
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