Despite Saturday’s loss to league leaders Sydney FC, City Head Coach Michael Valkanis says his side need to be focused on bouncing back the only way they know how as they prepare for the penultimate match of the regular season.
City sit fourth after the completion of Round 25, still holding onto a home match in the first week of the Finals Series, but being content with fourth spot is not on City’s and Valkanis’ radar at this stage of the season with six points still up for grabs.
With the side’s defensive lapses coming to the fore once again, Valkanis says his side will need to work harder on the track to iron out these issues.
“We didn’t defend two balls into the box properly and conceded goals,” Valkanis said.
“Two defensive errors have cost us and the third goal was just the third goal in the 90th minute. Consecutive goals in a very short period, it comes down to a bit of focus in that period where they got on top of us a little bit.
“You can’t fault their effort, they worked hard. In the end, when a team in that small period of time goes up 2-0, the game is going to open up again.
“We have to learn from it. We have the opportunity in the next two games to learn from this and be ready for finals football. We have to be able to handle that period of pressure. They were sloppy goals (to concede) and in a way, enough is enough.”
With five changes to the starting eleven from last week’s contest against the Wanderers, Valkanis is hoping his side can get back to full strength in the last two regular season matches, saying team consistency is key this at time of the season.
“We have to keep working. We have to get our players fit and back – like Michael Jakobsen. We haven’t had him in the last nine weeks. I think he’s the best defender in the A-League and we haven’t had him,” Valkanis said.
“I think [the defensive lapses] comes down to not having a defensive line that is always playing together. You have someone like Ruon (Tongyik) who’s a young boy. He’s going to make mistakes and he’s going to learn. He’s a player for the future.
“You have Manny [Muscat] coming in and filling in a gap for us. They worked, they tried. Their effort was outstanding.”
The attention now turns to Adelaide on Friday night and with the Reds’ having only pride to play for, Valkanis says his side will be looking at themselves to perform to the best of their ability with Finals football on the horizon.
“It’s in our hands. We have an important game at home against Adelaide and we know what we have to do. There’s no doubt about it,” he said.
“We want to finish as high as possible. The final two games are very important but finals time brings everyone on level ground again and you have a go at it. Finals football is different.
“No matter what happens, we’ll always be together and we’ll keep fighting and working. We always get together after the game, win draw or lose, and refocus.
“It all starts again next week which is a big game against Adelaide at home.”
City face the Reds this Friday night at AAMI Park, kick-off 7.50pm. Secure your place at our final home match of the season today!