by Jonathan Tay
“The Mac is back.” That was Melbourne City head coach Dario Vidosic’s triumphant announcement of young starlet Holly McNamara’s return to his squad ahead of their weekend clash with the Newcastle Jets.
Having torn her ACL in February last year, McNamara has gone through plenty of hard work to get to this point, having just tipped past the 12-month mark.
“She’ll be ready for Newcastle,” Vidosic said. “I know what it’s like, and I know what she’ll probably be feeling after such a long time away and it’s now building up. Not just us but the whole league, everyone’s really excited. It’s never nice to see anyone out; when you’re on the sidelines and you’re watching especially for an extended period of time. The work she’s put in to get to this point, we’re all really anticipating and looking forward to watching her play.
“I don’t want to give away too much – just in case anyone’s listening – but she’s capable, pretty much the green light; we’ll talk again today to the medical team and decide. We’ve still got today’s session and tomorrow’s session and we’ll just see how everyone feels, and tactically how we’ll go into that game.”
After an extended break, with the international period immediately followed by their bye week, the City boss provided an update on current absentees within the squad. Vidosic also touched on another returnee, Maria Rojas, who unfortunately comes back to Melbourne after an unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign with Chile.
“We’re hoping to have Naomi (Chinnama) back in a couple games,” Vidosic stated. “Bubs (Melissa Barbieri) is not long after that and Karly (Roestbakken) we’ll have to see; she’s a day-to-day prospect. We’ve got Dani (Galic) away with the under-20s [Matildas], and we wish her a successful trip. We’re excited to have Cote (Maria Rojas) back as well; she’s rejoined us and is ready for this weekend. It’s exciting when everyone’s back together.
“We were Chile’s number one supporter for that game; we were all glued to the screens, and I think she made a great impact when she came on and scored. They were a little bit unlucky with the ball off the crossbar three times, but it’s hard when it’s that one game – like a grand final – to qualify for the biggest prize, to go to a World Cup. So we gave her a couple days off, mentally just to refresh. She was excited to be back and she can’t wait to get back on the pitch and show her qualities as arguably the best player in the league when she left to go with the national team.
“It’s a good headache to have, I haven’t had the chance to choose from a 100% fit squad all season – it’s a part of football unfortunately. It’s good to have people coming back where we’ve got options; it just comes down to how individuals have trained and what our tactical approach is for the weekend.”
City are looking to bounce back after suffering consecutive defeats before the international window to Sydney FC and Western United. With just five games remaining, they have a task on their hands to close the eight-point gap to the top of the ladder (with one game in hand). They take on a Newcastle Jets side who are in the midst of another dismal season, having lost six of their last seven, including a 6-0 thrashing last weekend also against Western United.
“I just want to win, I want 15 points, we want to win every game from here until the end,” Vidosic affirmed. “If we don’t, we don’t, sometimes football can be against you. We’ve been in games this season where we’ve been the dominant team and haven’t picked up the three points. But in terms of the progress we’ve made, in terms of collective and individually it’s something we can be proud of.
“We’ll go out (with the) same mentality, we don’t just want to make the top four; from day one ours has been to win. We know now there’s less games, and it’s starting to get to the exciting part of the season where all the trophies are there to be played for. So for these last five games, we’ll continue to be us.
“They’ll (Newcastle) come out hungry. They were very unfortunate, they had a send-off very early in the game at one-nil; they needed a result so they couldn’t really sit back and defend. On Saturday it’s going to be a completely different game; we know their strengths, we know they’ve got dangerous players and they’ll want to bounce back after a six-nil – no one likes losing.
“Sometimes it’s not your day, where you try something and it doesn’t work. Every team has quality players and on any given day you can be beaten if you don’t turn up or give your best efforts.”
Newcastle Jets host Melbourne City at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday with a 3pm local time kick-off.
by Ben Gilby
Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis told the media today that if his team wants to play Finals, they need to concentrate on their own progress rather than that of Melbourne Victory who they are looking to chase down to make fourth place.
With the defending champions dropping points in recent weeks, Perth know that if they can keep winning, they will go ahead of Victory once they play their game in hand.
“It’s hard to ignore (the fact that Victory are dropping points) because the players watch the games, we watch the games as staff as you want to know what’s happening. What we have to do is to continue to be us and focus on ourselves individually and as a collective. If we worry about what next door are doing, our own grass will get too long.”
With four successive wins and five games undefeated, there’s not a lot of worrying going on at present at the club’s Fremantle Oval base, with Epakis revealing: “The players are happy, the staff are happy, but we’re all committed, and focussed.
“Everything we are doing on the training field – the preparation and effort going on during the week is getting us points on the weekend, but we’re also fixated on the next game and the one after that.
“The key message now is we can’t change what we are doing and must keep going in our mindset whether it’s in our hands or not. Knowing that’s there in the background is nice, but we won’t shift anything in what we’ve done.
“We tweak things, but we’re not training in a different way, just keeping momentum. It’s just making sure the players are physically and mentally ready. We have six games this month and the big road trip. Where possible we need to freshen.”
Perth Glory’s most recent victory was last Saturday’s 2-0 success at home to Brisbane Roar, with home-town hero Hana Lowry scoring high-quality individual goals. Whilst those strikes put the locally produced star in the headlines, the purple’s boss highlighted her regular workload that often goes under the radar.
“Hana is a perfectionist. She tries unbelievably hard at every aspect of her game. She will be striving to be better this weekend. A lot of the things she does do not always result in goals. There are assists, there is killer passing, there are a lot of elements in her game she is doing well at right now. She is very level-headed and grounded.”
This Sunday sees the Glory at home once again and going all out to extend the fortress- like record that they currently have at their Macedonia Park home in Balcatta which has seen Epakis’ side keep three consecutive clean sheets, scoring eight goals in the process.
Their opponents Western Sydney Wanderers have banished fears of the wooden spoon since the arrival of Sarina Bolden gave Kat Smith’s side a focal point up front to provide a link with their strong approach work. The Perth boss sees Wanderers as a potential banana skin.
“Where they are right now, they probably want to finish the season as high as they can and build for next season. They have the players that, if we’re not focussed, they will hurt us. That has been a really key message. We can’t take anyone for granted. They have players in transition who can cause problems with their speed and impact.”
Perth Glory host Western Sydney Wanderers at Macedonia Park on Sunday with a 4pm local time kick-off.