A-League 1,000: The Noel Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts, and musings on Round 26 of the A-League. The penultimate round of the regular season which commences in Parramatta and concludes in Perth.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners, Friday – Pirtek Stadium

I’m not suggesting the Wanderers are in a slump but they haven’t won in three weeks and that was a 1-0 nudge over Newcastle on a day when they had 15 attempts on goal. Whilst they might not be winning lately the Mariners have scored four goals in their last two fixtures so they should be at least having a crack here. With the return of Nick Montgomery, Tony Walmsley has his midfield general back and that will help with Dimas suspended for the Wanderers as the visitors look for any edge..

Big game for: Roy O’Donovan. His return to the team has coincided with a goal-scoring run but after his mid-season indiscretion the Irishman needs to continue to show his value.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Dimas and Andreu continued their great link work to the attackers on Friday night and the impact the midfielder influence has with Dimas missing will go a long way to deciding the result. Dimas missing a game could even help with driving competition for spots heading into the finals in a game they should win easily.

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – Westpac Stadium

Wellington will limp into this fixture having been humbled by the other Melbourne side 3-0 but the Victory have struck form at the right time of the season after seeing off the Wanderers 2-0. In even better news skipper Carl Valeri, a long-term absentee due to an inflammatory brain condition, returns for Melbourne and will travel to Perth. Albert Riera misses out for Wellington due to suspension so the Victory certainly have the upper hand in the midfield contests now but Tom Doyle is available for the Nix after serving a one-game ban.

Big game for: Melbourne left-back Daniel Georgievski was mighty lucky not to have been marched after his reckless 43rd minute tackle nearly re-arranged Mitch Nichols’s left kneecap. The Macedonian international has a year to run on his contract but his first team spot will continue to be put in doubt with bouts of ill-discipline potentially costing his team.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit:  Seeing Ben Sigmund play, this week or next, the veteran defender limped off early in the three-goal loss on Monday and is in doubt to feature again before his retirement. He might need to get on the bench for a ceremonial bow next weekend.

Sydney FC v Adelaide United, Saturday – Allianz Stadium

Sydney’s slide, which means they now have more losses (8) than wins (7) this season reached tragi-comic proportions when they decided to leave Henrique unmarked to see the Roar cap a 3-2 win in Brisbane. Adelaide, aside from O’Donovan goals, had little to worry about against the Mariners and some of their rotations in possession had the Central Coast chasing shadows. Guillermo Amor has the likely luxury of being able to name an un-changed line-up

Big game for: Sydney has a host of off-contract players but it was interesting to read Ali Abbas is attracting other interest. The midfielder had a mixed game in the five-goal thriller but if he leaves it’s one-less AFC player (Australian players excluded) in the A-League which the competition is poorer for. More diversity from players from across the confederation should be a priority.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing how the Reds handle the pressure. Adelaide can take sole possession of top spot (even if it’s for 24 hours) with a win here. Will the South Australian side falter under pressure?

Brisbane Roar v Newcastle Jets, Sunday – Suncorp Stadium

Heading into the round Brisbane have 13 wins but they are yet to defeat Newcastle this season and a victory would give them the ‘full set’ for the season over all the A-League sides. Newcastle will have Nigel Boogaard available this for the trip north after his red card was rightly over-turned. Even though they got the win last weekend Roar coach John Aloisi will be glad to have Matt McKay back for this fixture.

Big game for: Jamie Maclaren will finish the season, no matter what, as the highest ever Australian-born goal-scorer in the season of the A-League. However given the combined records policy let’s remember the forward is well short of players like Damian Mori who notched 31 goals in the 1995/96 NSL season.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Scott Miller can use these last two games to make some final decisions on players off-contract so the team he names should give us some clues about players who may be in the final fortnight of their career in Newcastle.

Perth Glory v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Sunday – nib Stadium

Kenny Lowe’s side have won nine of 10 games in their current run and their 12 total wins is one short of the visitors’ 13. Melbourne’s quick turnaround would normally be a worry but this game is on Sunday night and they were in second gear for much of the last 20 minutes on Monday night. Joshua Risdon returns from international duty but Perth coach Kenny Lowe will be without Dino Djulbic due to suspension.

Big game for: Defence, there isn’t much in it but Perth (36) have conceded three fewer goals compared to the current top two and this contest sees the competition’s oldest keepers (Ante Covic and Thomas Sorenson) match up against each other.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Will former Oasis front-man Noel Gallagher, now behind High Flying Birds, lob up at a Yokohama F Marinos game on his next tour of Japan? I understand his devotion to Manchester City but jumping on to ‘support’ (even if it’s in a small ‘free corporate box’ kind of way) another team in the franchise is a little much.

The betting bit – One serious one not:

The last time a Melbourne side played in Wellington during April last year they won and with the Victory ($2.15) looking to have overcome a blip they should salute in this contest into comedy red cards from Newcastle fans in the Queensland capital.

Record: 15/25

Profit: 50.55 (ten units per investment)

 

 

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

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