Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. That didn’t go quite to plan really did it? It is almost as if the past three games haven’t actually happened, it was all a dream and we have just woken up to the nightmare reality of a six one thrashing. It was all there to play for for the ‘Nix players, with a joint second place spot up for grabs. But they fell spectacularly at this hurdle, as they seem to do every time against Adelaide, somehow, we just cannot seem to play against them at all.
In fairness to the reds, they played very well. They played with a high tempo, constantly pressing the Phoenix players in possession, and when they themselves had the ball, moved it quickly around, playing nice football and looking comfortable on the ball. And almost as if they had read my article on Brazilians in the A-League earlier in the week, it was Adelaide’s three Brazilian players Cristiano, Cassio and Diego that did a lot of the damage.
This isn’t a match report as I usually write them because I can’t bear to re-create the six goals that went past us again, and because there is no real need of one. A match report is to tell the story of a game, but the story of this game is made clear by the scoreline. Wellington were poor, Adelaide were great, and so the one outclassed the other. Instead this will be something of an analysis of Wellington’s prospects from here. It is by no means panic stations, but a result like that is going to take some picking up from.
Worryingly last night we saw the recurrence of the sort of defensive frailties that plagued us last season, but which had been all but vanquished by our almost entirely new look back line. In this match though I think the problem was the willingness of the Adelaide midfielders to get forward and overload our defence. With Dodd and Cristiano up front, you then had Diego, Cassio and Mullen piling forwards too, plus the full backs getting up there too, with Jamieson particularly impressive. This meant that the barrier in front of the ‘Nix defence of Brown and McKain was overloaded and didn’t achieve much, though not out of a lack of effort on those boys parts. If anything they needed more support from Bertos and Fred in particularly, as Ferrante was his usual busy self.
Another major problem was the ‘Nix’s abject failure to keep the ball for any reasonable amount of time. It was blindingly obvious to all watching from within 10 minutes that we needed someone with a calm head to step in and just get us keeping possession. As it was, whenever Bertos got the ball he tried to beat everyone but failed to beat anyone, and whenever anyone else got the ball, there just weren’t any options other than to lump it toward Shane Smeltz. That meant that the defence and defensive midfielders got very little respite and were under almost constant siege.
One of the things that caused this inability to keep the ball was the lack of fluidity in movement throughout the side. The afore mentioned Bertos was far more isolated in a striker’s sort of area than he has been in previous weeks, which made him far easier to mark out of the game. In addition Tony Lochead, after a great performance full of attacking endeavour last week, seemed to have a bungee cord strapped around his waist, the other ends stuck to the corner flag and Paston’s (and Moss’s) left goal post. Yes, I know we were under a lot of pressure, but the few times when we did get hold of the ball a little, we needed these players to show for the ball, so we could keep it, build it, and try and get some sustained pressure at the other end.
I was a bit disappointed with Manny Muscat last night too. Defensively he is very sound, although he gave away far too many free kicks last night and I have no idea how he didn’t get booked, but attacking wise he didn’t bring much to the table. Each time he got the ball he seemed to just lump it up towards where Bertos was hiding behind his marker, which inevitably just handed possession back to Adelaide. Now that we have lost, and lost quite resoundingly, Herbert can allow himself to make some changes to the side, and for me, Karl Dodd has to be brought back in in place of Muscat, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly because he is just so damned solid. He is 100% committed and more often than not will make the challenge when he needs to. Secondly, the back line of Dodd, Sigmund, Durante and Lochead that we saw a few weeks ago looked like a very cohesive unit and as they are our four best defenders should be playing. Also though, Dodd seems to be the defence’s marshal when it comes to corners and set pieces. Without him last night, the marking was poor and aerial challenges were lackadaisical. For the first half especially every set piece was a major threat and we looked like conceding every time, indeed only some fine saves from Paston kept us in it before half time.
I think the most important thing that needs to be done though, is to simply put that game out of the players’ minds. Yes it was an awful performance and an embarrassing result, but they know that already. On Monday Ricki will go over a few key things from the game, but then all mention of it should be put aside. It should be disregarded as one of those days, so that the players do not let it affect their confidence. After being on such a good run of form, they should have been full of confidence going into the game, but that didn’t seem to be the case. What needs to be done now is that they need to rebuild the confidence. Accept it was a bad result but focus on the good ones of the previous three games.
A blow in confidence now could lead to a run of poor form and in this crucial stage of the season that is the very last thing we need. Last season we played well and picked up some results in the middle segment of the season but then plummeted towards the end of the campaign and ended up with a bottom of the table finish that we didn’t really deserve for much of the season. From this point in this season, that could again happen if we lose confidence and focus and slip to a couple of defeats. If however we can get back to winning ways in our next match against Perth at home, then we can forget all about this and continue our push towards the top four come the end of the season.
Either way, I think a match like this is always going to be a turning point in a season. Whether Ricki can use it to his advantage to get some fresh inspiration and effort out of his side or whether he lets it affect the negatively will say much about his talents as a motivator and man-manager. I think that we as fans also need to get behind the team too. Don;t give them too much stick for the performance, even though they deserve it. Let’s get behind the team and inspire them to bounce back from that performance with a big win of our own against Perth.