A-League 1,000: The ‘Are You Better Than Gold Coast United?’ Edition

@hamishneal

1,000 words, thoughts and musings on the coming weekend’s A-league action which consists of two elimination finals.

Adelaide United v Brisbane Roar, Friday- Adelaide Oval
From Hindmarsh Stadium to Adelaide Oval, the Reds home advantage has been somewhat negated as the FFA bank on a large crowd for this knockout fixture. Brisbane beat Adelaide 3-2 at Hindmarsh earlier in the month, but aside from that game their last win against a finals side was against Wellington in February. Adelaide, who won 14 games this season, four more than the visitors, have recently re-signed another of their Spanish players, Pablo Sanchez, who was causing problems for Jason Hoffman and Patrick Kisnorbo on the weekend, and he will want to retain that form which saw him sweep in for a goal against Melbourne City.

With Argentine Marcelo Carrusca back after missing the last month of action due to injury as well as influential midfielder Isaias Sanchez Josep Gombau has two of his key attacking weapons back, which will be a boost given Bruce Djite is likely to miss out after he sustained a groin injury last weekend. Michael Marrone’s suspension means changes at the back for Adelaide and this could benefit Brisbane, who will welcome back the likes of Thomas Broich, who were rested for the final game of the regular season. Players like Luke Brattan have really progressed this season and the Asian Champions League games may have even sharpened the bench/fringe players for the Queensland-based outfit.

As well as their outfield returnees it will be interesting to see if shot-stopper Michael Theo has a point to prove. Somehow the A-League title-winner keeper (five time title-winning keeper!) wasn’t the number one custodian in the PFA’s A-League team of the decade. Let’s see how the 34 year-old goes if it comes down to penalties? I’d back Brisbane if it got that far.

Big game for: Adelaide. After getting tipped out in the first week of the finals by the Mariners last season, this weekend is the chance to show Adelaide’s progress. The FFA Cup title is a good result but until that competition is linked to ACL qualification, the ‘value’ of it in it’s early editions sits well behind a Premier’s Plate or Grand Final triumph.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Farewell Frans Thijssen. The Dutchman could be coaching his last game for the Roar, with Auckland City mentor Ramon Tribulietx set to take over. Could Thijssen push his claims for future employment (in Queensland or elsewhere) with a shock win here? Can we get #farewellfrans trending?

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Sunday – Westpac Stadium
For all the jibes many people, including this columnist, have made against light blue Melbourne they are here in the finals, and their attacking threats, lead by Socceroo Aaron Mooy, Robert Koren, and Harry Novillo are amongst the best in the league if given space and time. Melbourne City’s problem will be getting the ball off Wellington, who held possession well last weekend – 80 per cent completion rate in passes; 100 more passes made than Sydney – but couldn’t finish when given the chance. The ball breaking down in the final third meant the ‘Nix were ultimately consigned to playing in the first week of the finals due to their wastefulness and a repeat defeat here will mean an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for a side that was top of the tree a month or so ago.

On the Victorian’s attacking trio, the greatest fear of Wellington fans is Mooy delivering a dead ball set piece that jags a late win on Sunday, but they do have threats from their other engine room players. That said, Wellington can win this game not playing their best but Melbourne, who only won a third of their 27 league games this season, need to be at their peak to come out victorious.
The second Melbourne side, like Adelaide in the first match, are missing a defender due to suspension with former Jet Kew Jaliens facing watch the elimination match from the stands. This is a bigger blow for Melbourne in New Zealand’s capital than missing Marrone is for the Reds in Adelaide.

Big game for: Heart/City. For all the investment, John van’t Schip’s side get a chance to prove they are a football team and not just a ‘brand’ with an away win here. Even the poorly-run Gold Coast United got to within one victory of a Grand Final spot in 2010/2011, the second year of their existence. Defeat here proves Heart are no better than Gold Coast United, despite their money and connections (David Villa…who?).

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Wellington scoring from a corner. Eight corners to Sydney’s one last weekend, can McGlinchey and co conjure something from a corner in a rare event for the ‘Nix?

Betting bit one serious one not
As we move into the knockout games the selections are the final result of each game, aka the team to progress – so they could win in 90 minutes, extra-time or on penalties. The recent stats of Brisbane playing better sides is damning but will the returning players have enough continuity? All that said Wellington at home are better value to progress ($1.50 @ TAB) plus a Josep Gombau mega-leap into Eugene Galekovic’s arms after they beat Brisbane which ruptures the goal-keepers’ ACL.
Profit: 19.20 (based on ten unit investment)
Record 14/27. Jets…oh dear.

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 8 2015

@hamishneal

Like the way of the Five Metre Gap in defence, looking at the points you may have missed from round eight of the NRL.

As the Warriors closed late at Mount Smart Stadium it was disappointing to see halfback Shaun Johnson get lost in the final set when the home side needed some direction from their Golden Boot winner. As the seconds wound down the number seven got his hands on the ball after two other players had done so from a key tackle with some ten seconds to go. When a kick over the top or across field seemed the option given the Warriors were 40-odd metres out the play slid meekly to the right-hand side of the field and was snuffed out by the Gold Coast who completed a 32-28 win. Whilst looking at aspects like a final play forgets everything which happened in the preceding 79 minutes 24 year-old Johnson needed to do more when the game was on the line and his opponents were, likely, at their most fatigued.

Staying in Auckland (and keeping with the fatigue theme) whilst Warriors boss Andrew McFadden lamented his side ‘checking out’ (my paraphrasing) at times the Titans were actually very poor in defence throughout the game. Neil Henry’s men missed 49 tackles, 28 of those by halftime. The first half misses were more than any other side missed in complete games across the weekend bar Newcastle (35) and North Queensland (29) when the Cowboys beat the Knights by two point at Hunter Stadium. Some leeway does need to be given when opposition players like Tuimoala Lolohea are busting ten tackles (often taking multiple players with them) but it should be a concern for the men from the Sunshine Strip.

As Newcastle fell to their fourth consecutive defeat skipper Kurt Gidley shone a light on his own performance and it may have paved the way for coach Rick Stone to elevate Sione Mata’utia to a starting birth at fullback. Gidley, 32, made seven runs for 57 metres in the 26-24 defeat on Saturday. Former NRL player and now broadcaster Jimmy Smith on Sky Sports Radio called for Mata’utia to be elevated to the custodian role for the Novocastrians and a glance at the last two games the pair played together would make a strong case for this. Gidley missed three tackles and made four errors whilst also conceding a penalty on Saturday. Mata’utia missed four tackles and made one error but the work with the ball really shows out the difference between the two. The youngster made 13 runs for 156 metres whilst veteran Gidley made seven runs for a 57 metres. In round six, the last time they both featured Gidley made two errors whilst conceding one penalty. Mata’utia had a clean slate in the 22-6 lose to Cronulla as both missed no tackles in the game but again the running metres told a story. Gidley: three runs 17 metres. Mata’utia: 14 runs 137 metres. Having dotted down as well when the Knights were trying to clamber back into the contest on Saturday the temptation to add to Mata’utia’s minutes (68 against Cronulla but just 52 against the Cowboys) must be high for coach Stone.

Perhaps due to the break after 28 minutes in play after to the storm at Allianz Stadium on Saturday both coaches took at interesting approach to their benches in the Roosters Dragons game. Wille Manu, 12 minutes, and Lagi Setu, 19, played less than a quarter of the game for Trent Robinson’s Roosters and Paul McGregor adopted a similar approach for St George Illawarra with former Origin player Ben Creagh, 17, and Jake Marketo, 15, spending more time trying to stay dry then contributing to their side’s 14-12 triumph. Was Saturday a window into the game time we can expect for bench players if interchanges are reduced? Will game time for ‘benchies’ drop to 15 minutes as opposed to 30?

Gold Coast, West Tigers, Warriors and North Queensland. That’s the alternate top four in the NRL based on points scored after two months of action. 7th, 5th, 13th and 4th respectively the fourth from bottom Warriors are the outlier in that quartet with their 175 points (the same amount as the Tigers) negated by the fact they have conceded 182 points, the second most of any side. With the Warriors just two points off the pace of the top eight after two months the Titans have scored 178 points and the Cowboys 172. Good news for fantasy owners of players in those team so far in 2015.

A-League 1,000: The Giant Human Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the coming weekend’s A-League action which win help determine the path to finals glory.

Brisbane Roar v Newcastle Jets, Friday – Suncorp Stadium

Starting the weekend 19 points from top spot, Brisbane are guaranteed a finals spot despite the fact they are only 14 points from last spot. A Brisbane B team matched it at times with the Victory before falling 1-0 and you can expect a similar side here given the Roar still have a hope of progressing in the ACL. Newcastle had a great chance to see off Sydney but failed to take their chances, like they have done so many times this season. Andrew Hoole’s continued improvement must be a painful burden for local fans who have seen players like Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Nathan Burns leave the club in recent years to gain titles and/or national team recognition.

Big game for: Goal-scoring. With the visitor’s having netted four times in the last three hours, and questionable motivation for the home side, this could be a goal-fest.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More marquee signing ‘news’ for the Jets. From powder puff interviews to selfies with fans, it was quite a week for Jets chairman Nathan Tinkler, who said he was a “50/50” hope of signing giant human Peter Crouch. One problem, upon simple investigation by Robert Dillon of the Newcastle Herald, it was pointed out that the former England striker was contracted to EPL side Stoke City until 2017. What next? Cesc Fabregas to the Mariners?

Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory, Saturday – Pirtek Stadium

Another game with questionable motivations for the sides involved. A win in Adelaide means as long as the Jets don’t win Friday night, the Wanderers will have a ‘we’re not the worst’ party on Saturday afternoon. Depending on how the contract scenario with the PFA shakes out, Perth could be farewelling a host of players who will be leaving the club given Glory will have to shed players to get back under the cap. Said players will want to attract, and potentially increase, their ‘market value’ (whatever that true figure actually is) with a good performance here.

Big game for: Kerem Bulut. Suspended for the next ACL group tie in China, the striker will want a big game here.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Andy Keogh. Are we seeing the last of Keogh in the A-League? Hopefully not, but Saturday night could be the farewell for the free-scoring forward.

Adelaide United v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Saturday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium

Like their namesake Adelaide the racehorse, who finished a disappointing eight in the $4million Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick recently, Josep Gombau’s side have gone from Cox Plate-winning form to making up the numbers in a short period of time. Having had to deal with the send-off of the Newcastle-bound Nigel Boogard, the Reds will be down on numbers here in defence but can an inconsistent City outfit take advantage of it?

Big game for: Finals implications. Needing to win away from home to progress when it comes to the finals, John van’t Schip’s men could see this win kick-start their playoff campaign a week early after a hugely disappointing result in Perth.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A Reds revival. Can Adelaide come back to form or will the result means they have to meet the light blues again next weekend?

Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC, Sunday – Westpac Stadium

By virtue of Perth fiddling the books, this game now becomes the ‘playoff for second’ with both sides last-start winners in dramatic fashion. Sydney only need a draw to claim second and see the return of key defender Nikolai Petkovic and Mickael Tavares to help them combat the Phoenix’s super-sub Kenny Cunningham.

Big game for: Louis Fenton. Pushed up into midfield by Ernie Merrick last week, the moved pay dividends for the home side. But will this tactical adjustment be backed again by the affable Scotsman with the key top two spot at stake?

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A twist in the tail. Would the scene be for former Wellington marksman Shane Smeltz to score again in the Ring of Fire to deny his old side a top two spot? Would the ‘Yellow Fever’ riot if this is the case?

Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners, Sunday – AAMI Park

Sunday evening will be the coronation of Melbourne as Premier’s Plate winners for 2014/15, barring a huge Sydney win and Melbourne getting flogged by the visiting Mariners here. Bound for the ACL next year, Kevin Muscat’s side will probably have got a rocket after only getting the win against a poor Brisbane side thanks largely to a dubious penalty call from referee Ben Williams. Central Coast displayed more of their new-found flair but came up agonisingly short in Wellington.

Big game for: Mariners Youth. Another chance for Tony Walmsley to blood the players he sees as key for 2015/16. Does Liam Rose get more game time here?

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Muskey’s ascension. Kevin Muscat has a chance to secure an ACL spot in his own right as a coach, which would be significant for him at the relatively young age of 41.

The betting bit, one serious one not
Against all our previous advice, and scared that Brisbane have Michael Theo back between the sticks, we are going for the Jets ($4.25 @ TAB) to score an upset in Brisbane into another round of selfies and high fives for their owner and the travelling fans.

Profit: $29.20 (based on ten unit investment)

Record: 14/26 Lord Kenny of Cunningham.

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 7 2015

@hamishneal

Like the way of the Five Metre Gap in defence, looking at the points you may have missed from round seven of the NRL.

St George Illawarra share a competition best 5-2 record atop the NRL ladder with the Dragons defence winning plaudits in the opening seven rounds of the competition. The consistency of Paul McGregor’s side is epitomised by forward Leeson Ah Mau who has not conceded made an error all season. The damaging runner has made 173 tackles and recorded 56 hit-ups in an impressive start to the season. In case you are thinking ‘oh he is a forward, he has probably conceded a bunch of penalties.’ Nope, the Samoan international has only infringed once in seven games. The 25 year-old doesn’t score a lot of tries but perhaps it isn’t all bad for the Dragons pack with the departure of Trent Merrin next season.

Interestingly the Dragons, whilst they do have a strong defence are one of only two sides yet to crack 100 points for the 2015 season. The only other side to have scored less than 100 points this season is bottom side Manly (1-6) with 96 points to date. So again normal caveats apply for Dragons players as fantasy lynchpins for tries and as your goal-kickers (a special shout out to anyone with Gareth Widdop as their goal-kicker.)

Penrith joined the list of inefficient sides in attack as they were humbled 32-6 by the Gold Coast on Saturday. After an hour of play they had been tackled inside the Titans ‘red zone’ 33 times for only one try whilst the Titans had a third of the amount of tackles (11) and scored twice to that point when they were in the Penrith final 20. The Panthers’ lack of spark was typified in a short period after the 60 minute mark when Tyrone Peachey tried to sneak a kick through and then not long after coughed up the ball close to the line. A creative team try for Neil Henry’s men followed by a couple of handy penalty goals were capped off by tries to Josh Hoffman and William Zillman in the final ten minutes of the encounter.

It’s worth acknowledging whilst people are out to harpoon Henry Perenara, Gavin Reynolds and the rest of the officiating crew from Sunday afternoon’s game at Leichhardt Oval that the Wests Tigers were their own worst enemy in missing 24 tackles and making seven errors as they were run down 30-22 by Canberra. Not including errors and poor last tackle play options that’s over an error every two and a half minutes by the Tigers. Whilst the missed table count wasn’t the most of anyone this round (34 were missed by the Roosters as they were edged in Melbourne) it is still a large amount. When 16 of those missed tackles came in the second half it is food for thought when compared with one, albeit simple, refereeing mistake.

Speaking of misses and errors, well done to both Cronulla and South Sydney who were surprisingly good with the ball in pitiful conditions on Monday evening as the home side were victorious in the Shire 18-10. The Sharks failed to complete only one set running with the wind in the first half going 19/20 and the Rabbitohs went 11/14 in the first 40 minutes. Both sides missed only 13 tackles combined in the first stanza. The game finished with 14 errors combined as Cronulla finished 37 of their 41 sets and Souths 28 of 34. Most times Souths’ completion rate of 82% will be enough for a win, but not on Monday evening.

A-League 1,000: The Double Dutch and Double Muscat Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the coming weekend’s A-League action in which we get double Roar and double Victory which should mean lots of goals.

Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory, Wednesday – Suncorp Stadium

Playing their round 18 fixture after it was lost due to Brisbane coping the tail end of the Cyclone Marcia chaos in February, these two sides meet Wednesday night and again on Saturday evening. Still looking disjointed at times (see Matthieu Delpierre spraying passes over the sideline) Melbourne has been hit and miss in the last few weeks. Indeed Newcastle did well, particularly in the first half against the Victorians, in their upset win. Lauded as the young footballer of the month for March, Brandon Borello will again be key for Brisbane in the coming fortnight.

Big game for: Victory’s big guns. Gui Finkler and Fahid Ben Khalfallah were kept under wraps at times by Newcastle. I wonder if Luke Brattan and co were taking notes?

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More funky coaching from Frans Thijssen. Does he throw all his eggs in one basket in one game and experiment in the other? Remember the ‘midfielders as defenders debacle’ of a few weeks ago?

Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners, Friday – Westpac Stadium

Tony Walmsley has had the interim bit dropped from his job title at the Mariners and has been given the role for the next 12 months, but he also remains technical director (no, I can’t work that out either.) Seemingly comfortable in the coaching role, the Englishman stated on Saturday night (before the permanent appointment was confirmed) that whoever does get the gig needs to focus on style. Wellington featured in a stylish game on Sunday against Melbourne City in one of the best 0-0’s I have seen in some time. Both sides played enterprising football with the ‘Nix benefitting from the return of Albert Reira. However no goals for Wellington in the last three games is concerning for Ernie Merrick’s team.

Big game for: Wellington’s bench. The late season acquisition of Joel Griffiths was seen an a real boost for the squad depth, but his injury has meant it’s players like forward Kenny Cunningham who need to step up when called upon to win games.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Central Coast’s new breed. Anthony Kalik started, Liam Rose came on and Anthony Caceres was influential for the start. Walmsley has ample chance to give these players, particularly the first two, further game time in the next fortnight. Does John Hutchinson only play 60 minutes this week? Was his farewell at Sauce Bottle Stadium on Saturday night his last game for the club?

Newcastle Jets v Sydney FC, Friday – Hunter Stadium

After we noted in recent weeks Edson Montano had hit the woodwork seven times this season, the Jets striker was to the fore in Newcastle’s upset of Melbourne Victory. With talk of marquee signings and the desperate need for a reliable striker, Montano’s goal was a timely reminder of his abilities. It’s hard to read Sydney in this game as they face two sides with ‘nothing to play for’ in back-to-back games. At what point do Sydney ‘come down to that level’? Complacency could be the big concern here for Graham Arnold.

Big game for: Mitch Cooper. I am not for a moment suggesting that Cooper is over the hill at 20 years of age, but should Phil Stubbins start Michael Kantarovski this week? The 19 year-old Kantarovski was a late sub in the triumph in Melbourne, and like Walmsley down the M1, Stubbins needs a greater set of data if you will to analyse his youngsters and their prospective hopes. Yes, the brother of Ben Kantarovski does play NYL but he needs to be tested at this level and why not now? If Stubbins doesn’t know what he has in Cooper by this point in the season, it has been a fruitless period for the development of the former Gold Coast midfielder.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Sydney’s team selections. Despite recent injury worries Sydney almost have an embarrassment of riches in the midfield this weekend with Rhyan Grant having performed admirably in the ‘screening role’ with Milos Dimitrijevic admittedly against a distracted Perth outfit. But the 24 year-old could end up making way for Mickaël Tavares.

Western Sydney v Adelaide United, Saturday – Pirtek Stadium

Two last-start losers meet in Parramatta with the Wanderers having missed chances in Gosford and Adelaide still just plain missing, particularly their key man in Marcello Carrusca. Despite having more shots on goal, it was Brisbane’s speed in transition which caught out Adelaide a lot in their loss. WSW were poor in their finishing in the attacking third against the Mariners but if they get as many chances in this game you figure they can scorer at least twice.

Big game for: Jonathan Aspropotamitis. Aside from the shaky early period, he looked a solid partner for Matthew Spiranovic in defence and with a midweek session to actually train and improve elements, hopefully Tony Popovic can derive some benefit for the 18 year-old to take into next season. How the youngster works long-term with Nikolai Topor-Stanley could be more important given Spiranovic, 26, is likely to be sought after in the next European transfer window.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Can we get some more comedy stylings from the bench? Ante Covic was booked for dissent on Saturday night in Gosford, but it was a big crowd and maybe it was just noisy and the linesperson misheard a bad joke?

Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – Suncorp Stadium

Both sides will play the ‘second leg’ of this tie with a slightly clearer path to the finals depending how Wednesday’s game has fallen. Brisbane may or may not need to role the dice with Michael Theo, and given they have their next Asian Champions League game in Beijing on Tuesday, it could be a jumbled team for the Roar. Kevin Muscat will need to address his side’s inability to put away chances, and results aside, he will be wanting goals in each game no matter the outcome one would think.

Big game for: Lawrence Thomas. By this stage, the Melbourne No. 2 shot-stopper could be playing his third consecutive game due to Nathan Coe’s back injury, and given his lack of top flight football, more games as opposed to training could be a positive for the 22 year-old who may be needed come finals time.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Take three? Could these sides meet again in May? It won’t be in Brisbane, but it would be a funny quirk if it fell that way in the finals scheduling.

Perth Glory v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Sunday – nib Stadium

So it came to pass the Perth Glory did cheat the A-League salary cap. Moreover they mis-reported external benefits such as housing related to Robbie Fowler’s stay at the club, according to the FFA. Perth’s fans went silly letting off flares which injured children (memo to WSW fans: yes, flares do injure) on a surreal and wet night in Perth on the same day the sanctions were announced. This game could battle it out for lowest-rated game of the season on TV, with a WA team playing a Melbourne side that doesn’t draw well. John van’t Schip will probably just want to get out of the game without any injuries.

Big game for: The visitor’s team selection. By Saturday night, City will know what they have to do to secure fith* after Brisbane’s games. Potentially players could be rested if not needed.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The Golden Boot. Fairfax football journalist Seb Hassett noted individual records do and will stand despite Perth’s cap scandal. Even though Andy Keogh is five back from Marc Janko, it would be amusing if a Glory player ‘won’ the golden boot this year. NB: There is no monetary reward for topping the goal-scoring charts.

The betting bit, one serious one not
Horrid weekend with so many team line-up and form question marks but will we jump on the plane to Wellington ($1.65 at TAB) to see off the Mariners and a McGlinchey comedy tifo from the Yellow Fever.
Profit: $22.70 (based on ten unit investment)
Record: 13/25 Say it aint so Josep say it aint so. Are the Reds on the slide?

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 6 2015

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence, looking at the points you may have missed from round six of the NRL.

Proving the folly of jumping the gun to assess a team’s strengths the Newcastle Knights have slide in their last two and a half games and gone from 4-0- to 4-2 in the period after we praised their attack in Five Metre Gap. In falling 22-6 to Cronulla on Friday evening Rick Stone’s side completed a terrible 58% of their sets (11/19) in the second half compared to Cronulla’s slick 94% (15/16) in the same period. The Novacastrians only reward at Remondis Stadium was a try ten minutes from full-time to Akuila Uate. It was their first four-pointer in nearly three hours, 177 minutes to be precise. So, about those Knights outside backs in your fantasy team.

The NSW halves combination have been under pressure to retain their spots with a slow start to the 2015 season for the Canterbury Bulldogs (3-3) duo Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds. Reynolds, whose career has been littered with suspensions, has struggled to get out of the blocks whilst Hodkinson seems reluctant to take control when he should be the dominant playmaker. 22 minutes into the game on Sunday against the Dragons, on the way to a comprehensive 31-6 lose, Hodkinson had only kicked once compared with six occasions for halves partner Moses Mbye who is five years his junior at 21. On Triple M’s Rush Hour program on Monday evening premiership-winning halfback Andrew Johns said Hodkinson “was hiding away from the ball.” Hodkinson also only ran twice. Once Reynolds came on he kicked six times to Hodkinson’s four more attempts. Whilst variety is important surely utilising your more experienced kicking/attacking options when you are chasing the game seems the better option.

Staying with Sunday afternoon’s game and it’s another example of attacking inefficiency. Late in the Channel Nine broadcast it was pointed out the Bulldogs had nearly four tackles inside the Dragons ‘red zone’ (last 20 metres) for every one tackle the Dragons had in Canterbury’s ‘red zone’ during the game. With their 41 ‘red zone’ tackles the Des Hasler-coached outfit only managed one try as they were comprehensively beaten 31-6 by Paul McGregor’s side who dotted down five times.

Despite a late Pat Richards try which made things interesting at Mount Smart Stadium the Warriors held out the Wests Tigers 32-22 on Saturday and it was the second last try which caught our eyes at Five Metre Gap HQ. It was a rare occasion for the Warriors of recent times when both halves launched the attack for Manu Vatuvei’s second try playing on the same side of the field. Chad Townsend feed fellow half Shaun Johnson before centre Solomone Kata provided the final pass. This could be damaging for opposing sides as Golden Boot winner Johnson could easily be used as a weapon in the future even if he doesn’t receive the ball during a similar play. This could allow more space and time for Townsend who is enjoying a renaissance under Andrew McFadden in 2015. Indeed it was the Tigers giving the former Shark too much time which had allowed the 24 year-old to score early in the night.

Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce is three from 19 in field goals attempts. It’s enough to make you run screaming from the room if you are a Sydney Roosters fan and the game enters golden point. The former NSW halfback was amongst four players from both Brisbane and the Roosters to miss a collective six attempts on Friday night in Brisbane (yes James Maloney did go close.) Noted by Aaron Wallace (@wallyscr) of Fox Sports on Twitter we think it’s a statistic which doesn’t bode well for efficient play during future golden point games for the 2013 premiers. Whilst a component of those 16 missed attempts may be rushed it’s a low return if those attempts are been made late in the game with the aim of needing to win. The further confirms our column from a few weeks ago when we noted players attempting field goals late in the first half (when a try clearly isn’t on) probably has a better chance of success as the opponent isn’t looking for it. An example of this was Sam William’s in round five for the Raiders when they beat Manly in Albury. Pearce owners in fantasy comps need not bother looking up the FG column for his scores for the rest of the season based on the above figures.

A-League 1,000: The Form Edition

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the coming weekend’s A-League action in which some teams look to restore faith and finals-bound sides look to restore form.

Melbourne Victory v Newcastle Jets, Friday – AAMI Park
With reports the Victory might need to play any ‘home’ Grand Final in Outer Mongolia, the locals may want to make the most of home advantage here. The Jets have started to form their roster for 2015/16 but will struggle to get another win this season.

Big game for: Phil Stubbins. Probably happy to be playing away from Newcastle this weekend after the ‘Muppet out’ banner at Hunter Stadium on Monday, the former Adelaide assistant needs something here (and in the coming weeks), or the fans might frog march him into the water at Newcastle Beach upon the sides return.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing how Melbourne’s defence develops. Now that Matthieu Delpierre is back, Victory’s backline has a month to find ‘finals standard’ form.

Perth Glory v Sydney FC, Friday – nib Stadium
Told they have ‘shrugged off’ the salary cap drama, the Glory could either be set to top the comp, or they might be kicking stones on Cottesloe Beach come the end of the month. Sydney FC might, in the end, be happy they butchered their dominance over Adelaide and lost 1-0 if it means they claim the title down the track. Better to lose after dominating in a regular season fixture than a knockout match.

Big game for: Andy Keogh. Getting paid for a fashion show (allegedly) or not, Keogh remains the Glory’s key to winning the title. A clean sheet is not likely.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Alex Brosque. With injury concerns in the camp, the one time Socceroo will be key in coming weeks. The former Roar striker told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast Weekend edition that he would consider retiring if Sydney lifted the toilet seat this season, despite having a year to run on his current deal.

Adelaide United v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
After playing in Korea on Wednesday and with a threadbare outfit due to injuries and daft eligibility rules, the Roar are still awaiting the return of some key players back with veteran Goalkeeper Mike Theo crucial in their roll of the finals dice. Adelaide will want Carrusca firing heading into the finals but he remains sidelined so both sides are not an full strength.

Big game for: Brisbane’s game plan. Adelaide’s tactics have been under the spotlight lately, and the ability of the Brisbane forwards to quickly get back possession if they lose it will be crucial at Hindmarsh.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Silliness. If Adelaide are really a long ball side, they should start firing in shots on goal Charlie Adam style from inside their own half. Galekovic could be angling for the vacant Socceroos striking role with the impending absence of Tim Cahill with a few more assists.

Central Coast Mariners v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – Sauce Bottle Stadium

Two years ago, this fixture at the back end of the season confirmed the Wanderers would finish top, although they would go on to lose to the Mariners in the Grand Final that season. Oh how times have changed for both sides. The visitors remain Champions of Asia, but struggle to beat Newcastle, while the Mariners have axed a coach for the first time in their history this season.

Big game for: John Hutchinson. It goes without saying (but we will write it anyway) the veteran midfielder has been Mr Mariner. Slated for a future coaching role at the club, he will pass the torch from a playing perspective at Gosford on Saturday night.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Familiar faces. Whilst a lot has changed in both club’s fortunes, players like Labinot Haliti still figure for the Wanderers and another crucial goal to win the game here isn’t out of the question.

Melbourne City v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – AAMI Park
City’s motivation here could be dependent on what happens to the Roar on Saturday. Able to come from behind to grab a point but not the win against the Waderers last start, the light blues are at least displaying more consistency; 18 months ago they probably fall in a heap after going behind. Speaking of falling in a heap, the Phoenix have been embarrassed in recent weeks with many calling their title aspirations into question.

Big game for: Albert Reira. Whilst the Phoenix have a plethora of internationals, it’s their former Auckland City player who really pulls the strings and his absence was evident on Sunday evening at the Cake Tin.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Can Harry Novillo continue his great form?

The betting bit, one serious one not
Adelaide missing key players but Brisbane missing more, Reds to win in Adelaide ($1.65 @ TAB)
Profit: $32.70 (based on ten unit investment)
Record: 13/24 Should have gone with a fashionable display from Perth.