Ben Gilby sets the scene for three of this weekend’s Round Nine matches with reports from the media conferences with additional reporting by Ryan Miller-Woods on Wellington Phoenix’s events (5/1/23).
Adelaide United v Canberra United
Adelaide United’s Dylan Holmes made clear to the media today that her team need to get back to their best on Saturday if they are to get anything from their match against Canberra United.
Reflecting on the South Australian side’s defeat at Newcastle Jets last weekend, the midfielder said: “It was very disappointing. Those are games that internally we are expecting to win and we’re very disappointed not to get three points. Overall it wasn’t our best performance as a collective despite dominating possession, Newcastle were able to take advantage of their opportunities and we were not.
“Collectively we still have some work to do. Until I feel like we’re winning games convincingly and putting in strong performances and dominating games…We’ve had a good start to the season but we can get better.”
Holmes believes that the capital city side are one of several teams in the competition whose points on the board do not match their potential. “Canberra are a really great team. If you look at their results, I don’t think they are indicative of the quality they have or how they have performed in those games. Their forward line is incredibly dangerous, and as a defensive line, we need to be strong.”
Canberra United defender Ellen Gett is certain that her team’s season is about to click as the capital city side look to push towards the top half of the table in the coming weeks.
Speaking to the media yesterday, the 19-year-old defender said: “We’re working well together. We’ve had a few of those games where you feel like you should have won, but the result doesn’t show. I feel very soon the results and the performances will align and we’ll be very dangerous.”
Gett is progressing well this season at such a young age and recognises how fortunate she is to have so many experienced players around her to take tips from.
“I’m learning a lot from all of them – the players and the staff. Michelle (Heyman) leads from up top which is awesome to have. In the midfield Grace Maher, and (at the back) Brushy (Ellie Brush), making sure that everyone is in place and in order. Me stepping into centre back alongside her, she communicates well, and learning off her is amazing.”
Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory
Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins has emphasised that he recognises that Perth Glory will present a serious test of his team’s Finals credentials when the two sides face off on Friday.
Despite the Western Australian side currently sitting third bottom with only five points, Hopkins is “wary”.
“It’s a dangerous game for us, this one. We’re approaching it very seriously. It is a game we have to really work hard in…History shows when we play teams a second time within a short period of time (the two teams met previously in Perth on 11th December) we’ve struggled a little bit.
“We’ve tried to do things a little bit different this week, focusing more around our physical preparation; to work hard, to be cohesive as a team without the ball. If we can get that right, the other side of the game, I’m hoping will take care of itself. We have a lot of quality when we have the ball, we just need to match Perth in the physical side.”
Hopkins knows that Alex Epakis is more than capable of setting his Perth team up to come away with something from AAMI Park, and suspects that there will be extra determination from the Western Australians as another loss will likely result in the Glory’s Finals dreams being shattered: “If I was in that position, I know what I would be expecting from my team, and we’re expecting that (from them). They came here last year and put in a good performance. They can come here and beat us – they did so in the recent past (last season). We’ll be doing everything we can to put in a strong, tough, hard-working performance. If we can do that, I’m confident we can match it with any team.”
The Victory head coach knows that his team will have to put on a better display than the one they showed against Canberra United last weekend when the defending champions needed a sensational performance from goalkeeper Casey Dumont to ensure they ran out 1-0 winners. Hopkins admitted that his players “are very conscious of a number of things about the game that weren’t good enough.”
One of the major positives for Victory this season is the continued development of their Young Matildas starlet Paige Zois (this week’s Midweek Dub interviewee – to read Kieran Yap’s feature with her, click on this link: https://impetusfootball.org/2023/01/04/paige-zois-the-world-at-her-feet-and-the-ball-on-a-string/ ). The champions’ boss was effusive in his praise of her and her flexibility as a player.
“Paige’s growth – what shows more is the way that she’s been thrown into a real strange position, one she’s never played before. She has really taken it in her stride. She has taken the ball inside and brought others into the game. She is a very bright player, wants to learn and listen, and her attitude is ‘I don’t care where I play, I just want to play.’ It’s great.”
As the season is now a third over, the league is starting to see the top four or five sides starting to pull away from the rest. Hopkins sees the next couple of weeks crucial for those lower down the ladder to start putting runs together.
“The usual suspects are up there, although the league is starting to open up into two halves now, with the length of the season and extra games, it’s too early to put your finger on the top six. Teams need to be aware now in this next period of games that it can open up if teams at the top lose a couple of games.
The Victory boss also revealed that Matildas star Elise Kellond-Knight is back in regular training after sickness and could play some part in Friday’s match.
Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis believes his team will benefit from having such a short turnaround between their home game with Western United on Sunday and Friday’s trip to Melbourne Victory.
Despite Perth having yet another trip to Victoria to face an in-form opponent, the Glory boss feels that his players are determined to put recent frustrating results behind them: “When you have a loss, the first thing you want to do is get back on the field and put it right, and that’s where we’re at as a group.
“We did play really well (against Western United). That sort of performance against 80% of teams in the competition we’d walk away with a result and to walk away with nothing is probably the most disappointing thing. We just want to have more to show on the board at the moment.
“Because we’ve had three matches in quick succession (Melbourne City away, Western United at home, and now Melbourne Victory away) with travel in between, we’ve had a lot of time together as a team to decompress and debrief where we’re currently at.”
That time together and discussions between players and coaching staff has enabled Epakis to look carefully at selection for Friday’s game. “We will freshen up and bring a couple of new characters in. It’s important when you have a squad to utilise different players’ strengths, and that’s where we’re at.”
It’s another tough assignment for a Perth side who have only five points to their name so far this season. The Western Australians will need to be defensively sound from the start and ensure their attacking talents click and maintain momentum across the 90 minutes to come away from AAMI Park with something.
Consequently, the Glory boss believes that regardless of the significant threats that Melbourne Victory pose, his team need to focus on their own game. “We have to make sure our house is in order and perform the best we can and the fixtures will take care of themselves.”
Western United v Wellington Phoenix
Western United have announced that defender Tyla-Jay Vlajnic will return from injury for their first home game since Round One when Wellington Phoenix visit this weekend.
The game comes too soon for Jaclyn Sawicki whose knee injury is not quite healed. Harriet Withers is still out and new signing Danielle Steer is not available yet. Francesca Iermano comes in.
Wellington Phoenix youngster Milly Clegg revealed that she was well prepared for her A-League Women debut last week at the age of just 17, writes Ryan Miller-Woods.
Speaking to the media today, Clegg said: “I think the experience from 20s (the New Zealand U20s) has been amazing because I’d say similar to the standard to that so that’s really helped me prepare for this and playing on the weekend I didn’t feel was a huge step up, I felt like I could compete and do quite well. It was hard but it wasn’t insane the step up.”
With Wellington finally getting their first point of the season against Western Sydney Wanderers, Clegg believes that this could be the launching pad of the Phoenix’s season:
“Yeah I really hope so, it was awesome to get a point, obviously we wanted the win because that’s like a game we targeted to try and get lots of points from but I think it’s good building the confidence and then hopefully getting a lot more points to come.”
Phoenix’s goal scorer last time out Michaela Robertson also spoke to the media ahead of her side’s tough trip to Western United, as Ryan Miller-Woods reports.
Her goal against Western Sydney Wanderers was the first time that the Wellington-born player has been on target for her side. Reflecting on that feeling, Robertson said: “It was incredible. I’ve been manifesting that moment for a long time and to have scored my first goal (in the A-League Women), I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that much adrenaline in a game before. It was an incredible moment and hopefully many more to come.”
With this being her first season as a professional footballer, Robertson was asked about how the step up has been for her in the A-League Women: “Yeah it’s been a challenge but I think a good one for me just to know where I’m at physically, playing with the boys before this and then going into women it was good to know that the jump isn’t as big as it seemed initially and I can compete at this level.”
Whilst Phoenix got their first point at the weekend, Robertson knows that it could, and indeed should have been more. “You know we gained a point but we also lost two, I think in that game we could have got three (points) that was our target game but it’s a building block, we’re on our way up. 2023 we’ve got goals going into this year and I think three points are still up for grabs.”