The Wandrawers were back in action on Sunday night in Melbourne, playing out a 1-1 draw after taking the lead in the opening quarter of the match. It’s a story all too similar to our season so far, and why I almost couldn’t bring myself to write another review. I seriously considered doing a one line review saying “please refer to literally any of our last 3 reviews.”
It would be a bit much to expect a new coach to turn things around instantly but with a new formation (which looks the goods other than having Bridge as our #10) and some new energy and ideas it would be reasonable to expect a bit of a ‘sugar hit’ from getting a new gaffer, as is common in football. This was especially so when we took an unexpected lead from an unexpected source. Josh Sotirio scoring the opening goal with a goal that only Sotirio could score. With all the similarities of his famous arse goal against Perth a few years back, Riera won the ball and laid it off to Llorente, who crossed it to Sotirio right in front of goal. He managed to scuff his shot only for the ball to fall right back to him. He then still only just manage to poke through Eugene Galekovic’s legs. Classic. But a goal is a goal and credit where credit’s due. He actually had a good game on top of that too, so well done lad.
However, as with our previous matches, we couldn’t hold the lead and City equalised through the VAR with a penalty. Again, the Wanderers failed to find a way through and regain the lead. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Janjetovic on a number of occasion, we probably would have lost all 3 points, instead of just the usual 2. It is a really worrying sign.
How long will we keep throwing away games. While some fans remain steadfast in their belief that all is well, others are becoming increasingly frustrated. Although some have pointed to the fact that this may have been a point stolen from City, in an away game against top opposition where we were lucky not to lose, to do this misses the point. Yes, as a one-off result it could be considered good. But when this has been happening for a number of games in a row, in matches we should be winning and against opposition we should be beating, it is a symptom of something much worse going on. With the team we have on paper and the record of fitness we have, there is no obvious reason why we should be fading away in the back end of games so much. We seem unable to play well for the full game, we play worse almost every second 45 and we are still struggling in front of goals. So far the goals are an improvement on last season but still not good enough for the players we have.
As pointed out by Chris Bettiol on FaceBook, our first half results (if kept) would be W – 5 D -1 L – 0 Pts 16, while our actual results are: W – 1 D – 5 L-0 Pts:8. That shows a real problem in (1) not being able to hold a lead and play well for the whole match and/or (2) not being able to really put teams away when we are on top. A lot of these matches would be won if we could maintain intensity or simply make the most of our advantage and put teams away early. There is something really wrong here and fans are both noticing it and (quite frankly) getting pissed off by it. Hopefully Gombau can change this, whether it be a fitness thing or a mentality thing. But he has his work cut out for him.
There are already possible signs of disunity in the camp… I’m of course referring to the incident on the touchline that I could not write a review of the match without talking about.
Oriol Riera was subbed off in the 78th minute while we were fighting to retain our lead. Riera, obviously frustrated with being taken off, slapped away Gombau’s hand when making his way to the bench. He then sat on the bench with the face of a man that has just driven 20 minutes to a KFC only to be told they are out of chicken. Now, while this may be a worrying sign of disrespect, it can also be taken another way, which to Gombau’s credit I think he did. While worrying, it is also a sign that Riera is highly motivated and passionate about making a difference for this team. This is something we have severely missed over recent years, especially from our marquees post-Shinji. Gombau’s reaction of continuing to grin and giving Riera a hearty pat around the shoulder, to me, signifies that he is happy with the passion despite the lack of respect. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to be Riera at training this week… It will be interesting to see if he starts against the Nix on Saturday.
“What else do you sell!??”
On this note, it is important we keep our passion and winning mentality as fans too. We should not be satisfied with 5 straight draws, even if the most recent of them was ‘fortunate’. This is particularly so when we have lead in the last 4 games and not managed to win any of those games. There is nothing wrong with being unhappy with how your team is travelling. Not liking what they are doing doesn’t mean you love them any less. I’m sure anyone with kids or a husband can relate.
But when all is said and done, after all the frustration, win or lose (or draw over and over and over and over again) we will always follow you. We look forward to seeing you all at our first home game in a month when we look to take down the Nix! COYW!!!!!!