United Looking to Jet Themselves Towards Top Six

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Adelaide United followed up their thumping 4-0 win over Central Coast by playing out one of the poorest matches so far this season on Sunday, plundering their way to a 0-0 draw with Perth Glory. It was not the sort of follow up coach Josep Gombau and United fans alike were hoping for. The reds returned to their wasteful ways in front of goal, failing to find the back of the net despite having 13 shots on Danny Vukovic’s goal.

Perth were no better but they were (and are) a club in turmoil with their manager removed in the week leading up to the game. United were on the back of a crushing victory and all was well in their corner. Perhaps not so. The reds remain inefficient with their finishing and despite two clean sheets on the bounce, still look somewhat suspect defensively.

Fabio Ferreira’s absence meant that Gombau opted to start the game with Jeronimo Neumann, Bruce Djite and Steven Lustica forming a front three. Lustica dropped into midfield for large portions of the game, allowing Marcelo Carrusca to advance further forward. However the Argentine was wasteful when presented with chances created by Isaías and Awer Mabil.

Ferreira participated in some training drills Thursday, but was held out for others as a precautionary measure. He could return to the line-up this weekend, most likely via the substitutes bench. Daniel Bowles could also play a part on Sunday which presents another option at right back, where Adelaide have been found out at times this season.

There is another option at fullback for Gombau in the shape of 20-year-old Scott Nagel, who trained with the first team on Boxing Day. He is unlikely to make the squad for this week’s game, but the two-footed youngster is one to keep an eye on for fans of the reds.

United didn’t look to move the ball at the pace that they did against the Mariners and it appeared to be an opportunity missed. Perth sat very deep and this meant the reds needed to look forward early when they won possession, but this didn’t happen. Their patient(ish) style returned and played right into the Glory’s hands, allowing them to sit and soak up pressure.

The two clean sheets United have kept were aided by Central Coast’s wasteful finishing and Perth’s lack of intent to attack. There are still frailties, but there are signs that the reds are getting to grips with Gombau’s defensive system and the high line he’s employing.

Jon McKain’s leadership is beginning to show and he is fast becoming a key figure in Gombau’s plans for the team. He has featured in each of the last three matches, and his presence has helped them adjust and improve their defending.

Newcastle come into the game on the back of a momentous upset win over Brisbane Roar, defeating them 2-0 at Suncorp Stadium last Friday. The Jets didn’t play pretty football but they were incredibly effective and did what needed to be done. Trumping the competition leaders will give them a huge boost and they will travel to Coopers Stadium full of enthusiasm and belief. This will be further fuelled by the fact that they’ve already won in Adelaide this season, beating United 2-1 in round five.

One of the most important players for the Jets this season has been goalkeeper Mark Birighitti. The 22-year-old has played every minute of Newcastle’s season to this point and has put in some superb displays. He is a big reason why the Jets have conceded the third fewest goals in the league.

The Jets youthful exuberance will provide a stern test for United with Adam Taggart looking to return to the score sheet for the first time in four games. His chip gave Newcastle a two goal lead when the sides met in round five, a lead that United couldn’t overhaul. Ruben Zadkovich provides experience and is the leader of the young Jets side, as well as being the fulcrum of their play.

On Boxing Day, Gombau sent a reminder to the reds players that just because its holiday season it isn’t an excuse to switch off. He called the team in after their first passing drill and promptly reminded them: “Wake up, it’s not still yesterday”, in reference to the United players appearing too relaxed.

The players responded in kind, lifting their intensity and effort levels. Good signs for United when you have a team as dangerous as the Jets coming to town on Sunday.

Andrew Cussen

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