Well, that was depressing. Half an hour in and we were two-nil up and looking like running away with it. Three goals, a red card, and one almighty collapse later and the referee was blowing the final whistle to seal a 3-2 victory for the Mariners.
How did it all go so wrong? What can we take away from that performance? Here are three things we learned:
When We’re On, We’re On.
Let’s start with the positives. That may seem like an odd place to begin after such a disappointing loss, but it should be acknowledged that we started well at the very least:
Craig Noone’s peach of a cross to find Adrian Luna was a beauty, and the Uruguayan made no mistake with the front post tap-in. Florin Berenguer’s defence-splitting ball to tee-up Jamie Maclaren for the second goal was world-class.
Overall, we showed glimpses of brilliant attacking football in the first half. We looked like we’d learned from last week and had worked on being more creative and clinical. This shows that we absolutely have the ability to be a great side. We have some brilliant players in our attacking third, and when they’re feeling it, we can be absolutely devastating. But therein lies the problem. We have what it takes to be a brilliant side, but why isn’t it there all the time? Our inconsistency is our biggest undoing (at least in an attacking sense).
We Have a Discipline Issue
Three red cards in five games is completely unacceptable. There’s no other way of saying that.
Luna vs Brisbane, Jamieson vs Adelaide and now Stokes vs Central Coast. What do all three have in common? They have all come in the form of second yellow card offences, and each of those has contained unnecessary and frankly stupid bookings. Tonight was no different, with Stokes receiving his marching orders after allowing Kuol to get past him with ease before bringing him down as he made his way through.
You simply can’t make excuses for us consistently finishing matches with only ten men on the pitch. One or two here and there could be chalked up to bad luck, but to have three in the first five matches of a season is nothing short of disgraceful. We are not a violent team. We don’t come into matches and hack and break our opponents repeatedly. We just make terrible decisions far too often. Discipline starts at the very top of the club, and having so many players see red often points to a deeper issue within the playing group.
Our Defending Needs a Lot of Work
Five games in and we have conceded nine goals. Nine goals in five games! That’s almost two goals per game! For a team that’s supposed to be one of the better sides in the league that is shocking.
What makes it worse is that Tom Glover in goal has looked to be one of our better players this season. Nine goals conceded without the excuse of an out of form goalkeeper is unbelievable.
The defensive errors are constant. Our defensive pressure is almost non-existent. We have been hopeless against set-pieces all season, we’ve allowed dangerous forwards acres of space and we’ve given away stupid penalties. Considering our coach is one of our all-time best defenders, it boggles the mind that we are so leaky!
There are a few big issues defensively, so let’s try and break some of them down:
We have a severe lack of defensive depth. Going into the season with one recognised centre-half who’d played before was always going to backfire. Curtis Good is our only true, experienced CB. He’s had a decent start to the season, but he’s prone to mistakes at times. Griffiths is a terrific makeshift defender, but at age 32, there’s always going to be issues with his fitness, and injuries have kept him off the park through large portions of his time at City. Kerrin Stokes impressed off the bench in his debut against Western United, but starting a teenager at centre-back each week is playing with fire, as tonight’s performance showed. Nuno Reis is hopefully going to make his debut soon, but to only have a vital defender available two months into the season is poor decision making by the club. Losing Windbichler and Delbridge without replacing them was a terrible choice, and it has cost us dearly early on.
Our full-backs have started the season terribly. Jamieson got himself sent off against Adelaide. Galloway had a nightmare against Western United and is now injured. Atkinson came off the bench tonight and played terribly, giving away a penalty and looking extremely shaky both on and off the ball. Ben Garuccio has had the best start to the season out of any of our full-backs and he’s started the least.
We are crying out for a defensive midfielder. The biggest problem with playing Griffiths in defence is that it leaves a giant gaping hole at the number 6. With Josh Brillante departing, Griffiths is the only true defensive midfielder on our list. Whilst we have plenty of midfielders, and some of them have been great in attacking roles, we are in desperate need of some steel in the middle of the park. None of our midfielders consistently track back, and once we turn the ball over the opposition has all the time in the world to run at our back four. We need Nuno Reis to hit the ground running, and Griffiths to be ready to slot back into the midfield urgently.
So where do we go from here? It’s still very early in his tenure, but questions are already being asked of coach Patrick Kisnorbo. It was always going to be difficult to fill the fingerless gloves of Erick Mombaerts, but what we’ve seen so far this season is incredibly worrying. We need to sure up defensively and become more consistent in attack, or this season is in danger of being written off extremely early.