Saturday evening saw Melbourne City come away 1-0 winners in Campbelltown against a valiant Macarthur side.
We didn’t have it all our own way, as the Bulls kept us on our toes having more than their fair share of chances throughout the 90 minutes.
In fact, in the end the only thing that ensured City left victors was the head of Taras Gomulka, clearing the ball off the goal line in the third minute of stoppage time, a moment that surely left hearts in the mouths for all City fans watching back home.
Nonetheless, the result sees City add another three points to our tally, and this is what we were able to take way from the encounter:
Stokes not up to par
It’s always a bit tricky when trying to mention the performances of a young footballer, especially if those performances have often been poor. Noting, this is nothing personal for Stokes, and whilst still very hopeful he is able to find his feet in the side, there are some areas that definitely need improving.
Over the past couple seasons it seems Stokes has become our preferred back-up centre-half. When we are down a man in that position, he’s given the nod more often than not. It’s due to this that we are able to dissect his performances with a little more clarity than some of the other youngsters coming through the team.
Stokes has made seven appearances in just under two seasons for the club, and is still yet to really ever leave fans wanting more.
In fact, more recently and especially last night, it was quite the opposite. Stokes looked quite uncomfortable, winning only 1/5 ground duels on the night, whilst also being forced into a reckless foul earning himself a yellow after being beaten by Lachlan Rose.
Unfortunately for Stokes, he wasn’t able to attempt to work himself back into the game, being subbed off for Jordon Hall at half-time.
It must be noted that working into this City back four is an extremely demanding roll, and we can only imagine how difficult it must be for a teenager, especially considering he’s often being expected to fill the boots of Reis or Good, so he deserves some more time.
Like stated earlier, however, this doesn’t change the fact that Stokes is still yet to leave a mark on the pitch at all really, which is something most of our youth players having been able to do to some capacity.
Let’s hope he just needs some more time to grow into the role, because unfortunately what we’ve seen from him so far hasn’t been up to par.
Do whatever it takes to keep Jenkinson
Leading on from my first point, the impact Carl Jenkinson has had on this squad in such a short time cannot go understated. Whether it’s been going forward to help out the attack, solidifying the back four or even his work off the pitch all together, the Englishman has worked his way into the hearts of all City fans.
Jenkinson’s body language seems to reciprocate our feelings towards him too. Do yourself a favour and go watch his celebration after our late winner against Sydney a few weeks back. Or if that’s too long ago, listen to his interview with one of our terrace leaders before the derby — he loves it here.
Being able to play at full back and centre-half makes him a perfect sustainable option for City moving forward. Not to mention the positive role he would be able to have on the likes of players like Stokes and other young defenders coming through the ranks.
City have had more than enough internationals sign up on our list for a paid holiday, so it’s crucial to recognise when we have a good one and boy, do we have a good one.
Jenkinson’s contract with parent club Nottingham Forest ends at the end of this season, so we should be doing everything in our power to sign him up on a permanent deal.
Controlling what we can
Live tables seem to be the main thing on our minds now: what happens if we win here and Western drop a point there, etc. — it’s a textbook title race.
Last season felt like quite a cruise to the trophy; we wrapped it up early and all sights were set on the Finals. This season couldn’t be further from that.
Every game feels like a Final. Every time we take a lead: relief. Every time we concede: devastation.
Being honest, I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon, and these could be some the nerviest final weeks fans of the club will have ever had to go through.
What is good, though, is that City are doing what they have to do: take points from matches. We are now unbeaten in nine, our last loss coming against Adelaide on the 15th of February.
This week could’ve been the end of our race for the plate; we dealt with a depleted side and two away games with a quick turnaround in between. It would have been expected that we’d slip up somewhere. Instead we end the week having taken all six points on offer; just another testament to the mental strength this squad possesses.
Make no mistake, every win we take puts pressure on Western United, who having taken only one win from their last four, look more vulnerable now than they have all season. The best thing we can do is what we’re doing: dig in and get results.
Melbourne City ends this week on an extremely positive note, but the work is far from over.
Next up, we face Wellington Phoenix in Sydney, where we will be looking to end our road trip with a perfect three wins from three, and return home with a pivotal nine points gained.