'Re-discovering our hunger': Three things we learned - Wanderers vs City
Assistant manager Petr Kratky walked out of CommBank Stadium a happy man on Friday night, victorious two games in a row.
The Czech fielded an almost identical line-up to the game earlier in the week, with Jenkinson taking Galloway's position at right-back as the only change.
Our second of three games in seven days, it wasn't the typical match City fans are used to. Wanderers had the lion's share of position and for the majority of the first half we struggled to leave our own end of the field. But, we resiliently weathered the storm and eventually ran out comfortable 3-1 winners.
There was a hell of a lot to like about that match, so let's see what we learned:
Don't Jinx It
I promised in my preview of the match that if we put on a dominant performance I would cease using the word 'consistent' but err, we sure do seem to be putting together a run of decent form and I don't see us faltering too often from here.
Let's not kid ourselves, we've had three wins in four games after a long string of draws so naturally, we're all relieved, but the last two games were against struggling sides in Western Sydney and Newcastle.
However, it's not just the results that are starting to spark hope in the City faithful, the performances have been reminiscent of last season's glorious heights too. And on top of that, we've added some pacey counter-attacks to our game, and in last night's match even managed to win without the ball for once.
Besides the positive performances, there seems to be a marked improvement in attitude as well. We stood resolute with our backs to the wall and showed real guts in the first half as Ugarkovic was rampant in midfield, providing a stark contrast to the aimless Troisi who has really taken the term 'Wanderer' to its literal conclusion.
We clearly sensed a blow-out on the cards as the unsettled Wanderers, still fresh from a manager change-over, began to lose their discipline to desperation under our immense pressure. So despite their early dominance (not that they really troubled Glover), we put our boots on their throats in the second half and were disappointed to not be leading by five goals at the 65th-minute mark. This is the kind of ferocious tenacity we're capable of, and we're getting there.
Fantastic Florin Berenguer
The team are really finding their feet as the disruptions of this season start to dissipate, and it showed in a game where the whole team operated as a unit without a single bad individual performance.
We'd all love to see Nuno in the backline again but we haven't really missed him with Griffiths providing a cool-headed performance once again. And Metcalfe continues his scarily fast evolution as one of the best number eights in the league, always showing for the ball and instinctively knowing where to pass to under pressure, while also providing options up front.
But the man at the heart of our team taking things to a whole new level this season is our favourite Frenchman, Florin. The midfielder only seems to get better and better with every season and this year it seems the departure of Luna has really allowed him to flourish as our main creative outlet. He's one of the few players in the team who is comfortable in tight spaces with the ball and it's no wonder no opposition can take the ball from his feet at the moment - not without giving away a foul anyway.
Our number ten inspired a particularly beautiful counter-attack full of quick passes that displayed the chemistry that has come from having a stable (nearly broke my promise there) squad these past few seasons. The move culminated with an expertly-placed finish at the near post by Flo that was sadly scratched off by the offside flag. He was rewarded for his efforts later on in the match, though, when he found himself at the top-left of the penalty box, shimmying past two defenders as he shifted the ball onto his right foot and scored an absolute screamer that curled into the top right of the goal - magnifique.
The Floodgates Are Open
Frenchy isn't the only one upping his game as of late. Mathew Leckie opened his account for the club with a goal against the Jets on Tuesday and with that duck off his back he added two more against the Wanderers.
Lecks had been slowly adding to his game and now it appears the logjam is cleared and he's found his scoring boots - or uh, head - in the A-League Mens again.
While we weren't exactly in control for the first half-hour, things would've looked much more dire if we went into the break scoreless. So, just when we needed a goal, Leckie came to the rescue; with Aiden O'Neill pouncing on a cleared ball and sending in a recycled corner, the Socceroos winger leaped at the sky-high ball, somehow generating a powerful header that he nailed into the net with perfect technique. It's the kind of expertise we hoped for when we signed the high-profile player. And then with a corner just before half-time, Leckie makes a cute little run from the front post to lose his defender and glanced his header neatly inside the back post to make it three goals in two games.
We all would have preferred a quicker start to life for Leckie in City blue, but with his recent form he's starting to turn even the most ardent of doubters into believers. Without much possession Jamie was naturally kept pretty quiet for large parts of the game - he even missed two gilt-edged chances - but the glory of our front three (now that Leckie is firing on all cylinders) is that oppositions can't keep them all out, and if one of them is having a rare quiet night, the others will pick up the slack.
Credit to Jamie though, he made several contributions from wider areas in supporting roles that dragged out defenders and opened up space for the other two world-class forwards in our team. It's a formula that can't go wrong.
We've momentarily taken the top spot on this unreliable ladder for the first time this season, and with three wins in four games, things are looking markedly different than they were just a few weeks ago. Coming into this match we had conceded in our previous six games, but if it wasn't for the penalty - given seemingly out of pity - we would've had our second clean sheet of the season. Now with Leckie firing on all cylinders and Flo taking his game to new heights, the boys are finally finding form.
The only thing we need now is to produce these kinds of performances against quality opposition and Adelaide gives us that chance on Tuesday night.