by Ryan Miller-Woods
Canberra United head coach Njegosh Popovich outlined his thoughts to the media today on the APL’s decision to deduct the club three points for fielding an illegible player against Sydney FC with the club set to appeal the penalty.
“There’s three windows of opportunities to make substitutions. We ended up using a fourth window. The little bit of confusion lies around what is the concussion protocol or what is an injury replacement. We’re working through it and fingers crossed that it all goes our way.”
Popovich reflected his frustration on the decision saying: “I could comment on a lot of things in what’s happened in recent times in Australian football and there never seems to have been anyone docked points (for things that) in my opinion (are) more severe matters. But again look, there’s a process and we’re following the process. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, we’ll have a successful outcome.”
The upcoming match against Western Sydney Wanderers should at least on the surface give Canberra a sense of confidence given the result from the last time both sides played each other in Round 15 which was a 3-0 win at McKellar Park.
In what the Canberra boss expects from Western Sydney Wanderers, Popovch said: “Western Sydney are little bit wounded I guess from the last time they played us. They went away and got a result in Perth (last round) which is a tough trip, so I think that they’ll be up for the fight. For us it’s just more of the same, we know what we’re capable of. If we play our game, nobody can touch us.”
As Canberra United headed into this season, the prospect of the A-League Women’s all-time leading goal scorer Michelle Heyman getting to that illustrious 100 goals in the league seemed like it would have been a little bit out of sight as at the time she was on 81 goals.
Now with the club icon adding a further 12 to her tally this season with seven of those goals coming in the last four matches for Canberra, it is quite possible that the milestone could occur by the end of the season. Popovich feels it would be ample reward for his star striker.
“I think it is very exciting, it’s exciting for the whole club, it’s exciting for Michelle, it’s exciting for me as a coach because that’s part of the discussion we had at the beginning of the year to incentivise her to get to that 100 goals. I think she is a champion and she’ll get there this year.”
by Ben Gilby
Melina Ayres believes that Melbourne Victory can use adversity as a motivating force to overcome their cross-city rivals in the big derby against Melbourne City on Monday.
Reflecting on the devastating injury blow in training last week which resulted in Elise Kellond-Knight rupturing her Achilles, thus ending her World Cup hopes with the Matildas, Ayres said: “It’s such a devastating thing to watch a mate go down and have such a horrible thing in a World Cup year. We’re all behind her and devastated as a group.”
Victory currently stand in fourth spot on the ladder – the last available place in Finals, and have Canberra United and Perth Glory breathing down their necks – something which Ayres revealed was not a particularly enjoyable prospect last weekend when her side had the bye.
“The week off is never a fun one, it’s just waiting and watching everyone else play. We’re always keeping an eye on the table. You feel helpless not being able to play. Jeff (Hopkins, head coach) has put us through the wringer the last few weeks, so we should be ready to go out on Monday…We’re looking forward to Monday, it’s a big game, a Melbourne derby.”
When the derby doubles up as a clash between the sides placed third and fourth on the ladder, its importance ramps up that bit more, but the attacker feels that her side only get better in such situations.
“Every time it gets towards Finals something just clicks. Our Achilles heel is we need pressure to perform. We’ve been a goal down and found a way to get back into it. We find heart in us as a group to get there.
“If we want it more, then we win, and we do. Especially with everything that has happened. City have been a good team this year, but we can do it.
by Ben Gilby
Wellington Phoenix defender Michaela Foster reflected on a whirlwind last six months that has seen her go from National League football in New Zealand to a professional A-League Women contract and an international call-up.
“It’s been quite an uphill career the last six months, it’s gone pretty quick and it’s hard to take time to reflect. I’ve had the Ferns as well, and I can’t even think of the World Cup at the moment. I’m extremely proud of what I’ve achieved so far, but I’ve got a long way to go, but the Phoenix are really helping me.”
Whilst remaining level-headed about the possibility of making the New Zealand World Cup squad, Foster knows she is in the mix.
“After being amongst the camp it does feel reachable. I know I’m in the talks for it. I made the most of it, I want to push for it, but I also know this is the beginning of my career, so there’s lots of time ahead.”
Despite being bottom of the table, Wellington Phoenix are, like last season, hitting their best and most consistent run of performances in the last few weeks of the campaign. They came close to chalking up their second win of the campaign last weekend at home to Brisbane Roar.
“It’s tough, especially when you lead for 50-60 minutes of the game, and we felt like we were on top for the vast majority of it. It was one little lapse of focus and they took their chance. We have to stay in focus for the whole 90.”
Whilst this weekend, the Nix face a trip to the new league leaders Sydney FC, Foster is confident that her side can maintain their recent improved run, having given the Harbour City side a number of headaches in their previous meeting.
“We’re going into it full steam ahead, especially having played them only two weeks ago and could have got a point out of it, even three points. It’s just about taking chances. We know Sydney are strong.”
Wellington Phoenix defender Marisa van der Meer spoke to the media today about being comfortable in the A-League Women professional environment and how this can be a springboard to getting a positive result against leaders Sydney FC this weekend.
“We played them two weeks ago, it was only a 1-0 loss,” van der Meer told the media today. “It was a game we felt we deserved more from. We’re going into it with a lot of fire in our bellies. They are missing a few players, so we want to take advantage of that.”
With the 20-year-old recently switching to centre-back something she admits to be enjoying, van der Meer sees this versatility as a potential aid to helping her achieve a lifelong goal of breaking into the national side.
“I want to feel comfortable with how I’m playing. The long-term goal is to play for the Ferns. Jitka (Klimková – New Zealand head coach) reaches out (to me), and she is introducing a lot of young players. She is feeding back things that I need to take on board (to play international football).”