We finally pick ourselves up from the disappointment of the past few games and win against the same team we drew against in the cup just a couple of weeks ago. A scrappy corner goal (yes the irony is unbelievable) from Milligan gives us a much needed three points and we shoot back up the table as a result.
The injury crisis continues mind as both Josh Gordon and Flamini pick up minor injuries. Gordon’s is only minor so he’ll only miss the next game but Flamini is definitely out for at least four weeks. We’re not going to be able to field a full team at this rate.
Despite the previous comment, Josh Gordon only drops to the bench due to his fitness concerns. With a weird 4-3-1-2 formation going, with two Target Men up front, we not potent in front of goal and throw away an opportunity at another three points against Newcastle Jets. We had 14 shots but only mustered three on target. We definitely need to find something else within this squad, maybe the youth has something to offer?
We dived into the youth team and found a back up central midfielder and striker. The midfielder comes on to the bench whereas the striker comes straight into the team. Both play in a win over Wellington Phoenix with striker, Sam McHeileh, picking up an assist on his debut. Josh Gordon though surprises again by scoring both goals in the 2-1 win.
Next up is Melbourne City. We decide to use the exact same team in the derby. For context, they started the day 9th in the table and are clearly struggling at the moment, so the time to strike is now. It’s a tetchy opening twenty minutes but it’s the youngster McHelileh who shines by latching on to a whipped cross to tap in just before the goalkeeper can get there. With us being ahead, we should be in a good position to see out the game at this point. Five minutes after the goal however, ball winning midfielder Sanchez decides to dive two-footed into a challenge and gets himself sent off. We’re now holding a narrow lead with 60 minutes left on the clock. We concede a couple of good chances but survive, and we win the derby in a slight bit of fortune.
Up next is the cup final against Sydney FC. We’ve struggled against them this season already but with no new injury concerns, we use the same team as the previous game. That is, without the aforementioned Sanchez whose silly challenge in the previous game means he’s suspended for the biggest game of our season.
The game is generally quite dull. We’re resolute and we limit Sydney chances to shots from outside the area and the game then finishes 0-0 and we head into extra time. With the move into extra time we slightly change tactic and move to a 4-3-3 wide brining on Triosi on the left and a returning Barbarouses on the right. The impact is almost immediate, a counter led by sixteen year old McHelieh leads to Triosi being tripped in the box to win a penalty. I hold my breath as captain Mark Milligan steps up probably does a deep breath himself. He runs up and blasts the penalty into the top corner – it’s unstoppable and I go mad in my chair. We’re in the ascendancy now and three minutes later, Triosi steps over a free kick and slams it in the back of the net from 25 yards. 2-0 in a cup final with fifteen or so minutes left! We both lose players to second bookable offences meaning it’s 10 on 10. Both sides are struggling with fitness but still give their all. We commit a couple of fouls on the outside of the area which cause us a few problems but we end up dealing with them until the relief of the final whistle.
After coming so close last season, it’s a massive boost to everyone’s confidence to win the FFA Cup. We’ve recovered from the opening four games and are now unbeaten in five. With the cup out of the way now we can focus on the league. Going into extra time again makes things difficult for our next game, only three days away. We’re on a high from the cup win but come up against a difficult Adelaide who are currently top of the table. We are at home so it will be interesting to see what we can do with our current formation.
We go into the game with the same team, despite our fitness issues, due to the late finish in the cup final. We’re not at our best, that’s for sure but we manage to contain Adelaide for the most part and have some clear cut chances ourselves. It’s a 39th minute cross form right-back Geria finds the head of Josh Gordon who heads in his fifth goal of the season. Highlights were few and, apart from Athiu spurning a great chance, there’s not much more to note. We’re dominated in possession but manage to hold our shape and I’m impressed with our defensive strength considering our current injuries.
We’re now unbeaten in five league games and now are going to start playing the teams we’ve already played this season. We know them a little bit better, and they us. If we can take the same amount of points and continue our form, we’ve definitely got a chance of remaining in the title hunt. Only time will tell.