A derby win and a 4-0 drubbing of Sydney FC away from home had Melbourne Heart in fine festive spirit.
A derby win and a 4-0 drubbing of Sydney FC away from home had Melbourne Heart in fine festive spirit. Sitting pretty in second, Heart had gone from contemplating another season without finals football, after a dire, if somewhat unlucky, start to the season, to contemplating a push for the minor premiership.
A dip in form, contributable to sizeable injury problems in the middle of the park, since however has put such hopes on ice. John van-t Schip has always been coy when it comes to the hype that surrounds good form. The goal for Melbourne Heart remains to simply play finals football, and with only one point to show from the last two games, Heart have been served a timely reminder that you simply cannot take anything for granted in the A-League. With the table so tight, it only takes a couple of weeks of poor form to see a side go from title contenders, to scrapping for finals positions.
Big Wednesday-s clash with Adelaide United at AAMI Park was perhaps the most disappointing performance since the 2-0 loss to Perth Glory earlier this season. A game the Heart controlled for the majority of the first half, van Schip-s men failed to show the ruthlessness that saw them tear Sydney to pieces, and allowed a hard working Adelaide side to work their way back into the match. The loss of Fred was identified as one of the key factors in the match, but that ignores the bigger picture.
Fred is without doubt central to Heart-s ambitions this season, however it is worth remembering that Heart were also without Jonathan Germano and Wayne Srhoj, key components of a fantastic midfield outfit that, at full strength, boasts a steely determination and quality going forward. If you take three senior, first team midfielders from any one of the A-League squads, performances will inevitably suffer.
The performance against Gold Coast was an improved one, but one that suffered from a similar lack of efficiency in the final third. Gold Coast would work their way back into the game and eventually feel a little hard done by to finish with only a point. Considering the possession and territory that the Heart enjoyed throughout the first half and the opening of the second, there is a case to suggest that the Gold Coast were lucky to even be in the game by the time they finally put the ball past the brilliant Clint Bolton, who put on a goalkeeping master class once more.
The return of Germano and Srhoj, and the promising performance from Kristian Sarkies, means there is great reason for optimism heading into the must win clash against the Glory this Sunday. After beating them on their own turf only a month ago, Heart can properly avenge their poor performance at AAMI Park earlier in the season against the same opponents. With Germano, Srhoj, Sarkies and Matthew Thompson all available, Heart-s midfield will have a much more familiar look to it than in recent weeks, with the added comfort of having proven midfielders on the bench, and with Perth likely to be without Coyne and Neville, this is a great opportunity for the Heart to get back to their winning ways.
With so many home games coming up, it is also a great chance for the Heart to finally make AAMI Park the fortress it deserves to be. Winning at home has to become a habit for the Heart, and kicking off this run of home games with a win against Perth will do wonders for John van -t Schip-s ambitions of doing just that.
Make sure you get down to AAMI Park this Sunday and support your team against the Glory.
Follow Matt on Twitter @mg91.