Almanac Soccer – A-League 1,000: The Gap Edition


1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 24 of the A-League which starts at Sydney Olympic Park on Friday and finishes up on Sunday night in Perth.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ship, Friday – Spotless Stadium
The streak is broken, long live the streak! With the Wanderers earning maximum points for the first time at Spotless Stadium last Sunday, for the first time Tony Popovic’s side were able to take a rare full week without Asian Champions League commitments to prepare for the trip of the light blues who put four past Newcastle. Beaten 4-1 in the FFA Cup in September and 1-0 last time they met (January) only a Lachlan Scott effort which glanced in off Neil Kilkenny when the two sides met here in November has given the Wanderers any joy against the Victorian outfit this campaign.

Big game for: Dean Bouzanis. The visiting keeper is free to play this game after his ban for racially abusing Besart Berisha and probably gets the start after the light blues have shipped eight goals in his absence. But, Thomas Sorenson did get a clean sheet last weekend.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: An end to tribute shirts unless someone is dead. The grey shirts in tribute to Fernando Brandan who picked up a season-ending injury at training recently were a little much. Wade Dekker got a season-ending injury ankle once when John van’t Schip coached the side. I don’t recall anything along this line for the forward then. Dekker was summarily told ‘goodbye’ at the end of his contract. Strange times.

Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United, Saturday – Central Coast Stadium
Despite only nine wins between them in 46 games this season this match-up of the second-last Mariners versus the bottom-placed Adelaide could be the most exciting of the weekend when looking at recent results of the two sides. The Reds were lucky to get all three points on Sunday evening in Adelaide with Brisbane, who play later on Saturday, ruing late calls from the officials but Guillmero Amor’s side face the prospect of a season sweep here. The Mariners have won 2-1 twice this season over Adelaide with victories in South Australia and Canberra. Adelaide’s Jordan O’Doherty scored late but the Mariners won comfortably last month in the ACT.

Big game for: It’s another goal-keeper back from suspension. Paul Izzo returns after he saw red in their last home game so will come in for Ivan Necevski.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Marcelo Carrusca’s suspension and Riley McGree’s Socceroos absence is somewhat offset by the return of Isaias but a season sweep beckons for the yellow and navy. Such dominance over even one other A-League side was something unlikely for the Mariners nine months ago.

Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – Suncorp Stadium
Despite only two spots between them on the table Melbourne (14 wins) have triumphed six more times than their opponent this season and won 3-2 when the duo last met. However back in October to open the season Luke DeVere scored deep into stoppage time late to snatch a dramatic 1-1 draw after Melbourne’s Mitch Austin looked to have the scored the winner in his club debut. After the drama of the Adelaide fixture Brisbane were eventually sanctioned for what happened between the coaching staff with Roar assistant Ross Aloisi facing a ban for the rest of the season.

Big game for: With four rounds to go in the regular season Kevin Muscat might not want to be experimenting with his team but that’s what he will need to do with Besart Berisha, Marco Rojas, James Troisi and Jai Ingham missing due to international duty. All bar Ingham, who came on with 13 minutes to go, started in the 4-1 win over Perth.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Brisbane will need to go on the road to win the A-League but a victory here prior to hosting the Mariners could be a good confidence boost before they head to Perth then resume their ACL campaign on April 12 against Kashima.

Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets, Sunday – Westpac Stadium
Wellington sit just a point above Newcastle in seventh with a win needed for either side hoping to still make the top six. On Boxing Day there was a 2-2 draw in Newcastle the last time these sides met after a 2-0 win to Wellington in November when Roy Krishna scored twice. Fijian Krishna will be missing here along with five first team regulars playing for New Zealand (and Alex Rufer) so the home side are under strength but Newcastle have had their own issues with not getting bang for their visa buck. Finals, and contracts, on the line which could mean a dour game. But hopefully it’s exciting like the Boxing Day encounter.

Big game for: Rufer’s elevation to the All Whites when a perfectly fit, and playing, Kosta Barbarouses was available was one of the baffling calls from All Whites boss Anthony Hudson but could benefit Nix co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre here.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Jason Hoffman is back from suspension for the Jets and his experience will be important.

Perth Glory v Sydney FC, Sunday – nib Stadium
Confirmation and presentation of the Premier’s Plate could be with us on Sunday evening as Graham Arnold’s side suit up for the first time in a fortnight due to the split round. Perth (who also missed last weekend having played in part one of the split round) could move to fourth if the Victory win in Queensland on Saturday night so there is plenty on the line here. In one of the latest signings in an A-League season Romanian Lucian Goian is expected to play right away with the 34-year-old, most recently having played in the Indian Super League for Mumbai City, expected to replace Socceroo Rhys Williams in defence.

Big game for: Sydney’s strong bench has been one of their many advantages this season but will be tested on Sunday. They add former Mariner Tom Heward-Belle to the bench with Andrew Redmayne likely to start in goal for the Sky Blues.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Like Brisbane, Perth will face a bit of travel to progress in the A-League finals but they will be finals-ready playing three sides above them in the next month. This should have Kenny Lowe’s team in top shape.

The betting bit – One serious one not
We’ve seen some season sweeps in the last few weeks and I like the Mariners ($2.50) to seal another here in beating Adelaide to continue a mini-revival in this part of the column followed up by a cardboard Premiers’ Plate in the visiting Sydney section in Perth on Sunday.

Record: 8/24
Profit: – $70.10 (ten units per investment)

This A-League preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport



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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