Last night’s 2-1 win over APIA Leichardt Tigers was the Wanderers’ final hit-out before Tuesday’s Westfield FFA Cup Quarter Final against Perth Glory.
Here’s what we saw.
Feed Piovaccari and he will score
The marquee man showed another element to his game when he rose high to power a delicious header into the corner.
The Italian showed great instinct to check his run, before darting across his marker to meet what was a fantastic cross from the ever-dangerous Romeo Castelen.
He might not be the type of striker who creates chances out of nothing though tee him up with the right service and you’d be foolish to bet against him.
With the arrival of Dario Vidosic, the Wanderers now boast a wealth of attacking midfield options and Piovaccari is set to benefit most as spearhead of the attack.
Granted, his missed penalty last week against Wellington wasn’t one for the highlight reel but it’s definitely encouraging to see your number 9 finding the net in such a way this close to the start of the season.
Starting XI settled?
Tony Popovic has now had a couple of months to take stock of the squad at his disposal and it appears the boss may have decided on the bulk of personnel that will take the field come Round 1 of the Hyundai A-League.
Much has been made of the tussle between Andrew Redmayne and Dean Bouzanis for the spot between the sticks and it’s Redmayne who’s emerged as favourite to glove up against the Roar, considering he’s started in both Westfield FFA Cup fixtures as well as the majority of pre-season friendlies.
At the back, Scott Jamieson and Scott Neville look to be frontrunners to nail down the left and right back spots respectively, while Alberto, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Brendan Hamill will fight it out for a spot in the centre.
Although Piovaccari looks certain to lead the line, there’s much more conjecture when it comes to the midfield cast that will be supporting him.
Romeo Castelen, Mitch Nichols, Jaushua Sotirio and the injured Mark Bridge have all featured prominently so far in the three attacking slots but will now also have to compete with new marquee man Vidosic.
In the holding positions, Dimas, Andreu (who is also recovering from injury) Kearyn Baccus and Jacob Pepper have all given good accounts of themselves, so it may be a case of Popovic picking the players best suited to tactically taking apart Brisbane’s game.
Next week’s clash against Perth should give us a bit more of an indication of things but it could still be anyone’s guess – Wanderers faithful will know full well that Popovic is a man who keeps his cards close to his chest.
Wanted: 90 minutes of domination
Throughout pre-season, there’s been one glaring element that’s been missing from the Wanderers’ game: a complete 90 minutes of football.
Admittedly, executing a game plan from start to finish is a very tricky task in pre-season – the need to experiment and trial different things takes precedent over closing out a contest.
Against APIA last night, the Wanderers gave a purposeful first-half performance but petered out in the second stanza when the bench began to empty.
Popovic has shown in the past that he’s a master of mapping out the 90 minutes – it’s the sort of trait that separates the teams fighting for the title and those just playing for kicks.
The Hyundai A-League is a different beast compared to pre-season and there’s no doubt the Wanderers will be looking to rediscover that hardy resilience that brought so much success in previous years.
Goodbye pre-season – the fun starts now
From here on out, every game counts for something.
Last night’s win against APIA marked the official end of the Wanderers’ pre-season.
No more friendlies, no more experimentation and no more excuses.
Test number one comes in the form of a trip to Perth on Tuesday to take on the Glory in the Westfield FFA Cup Quarter Finals.
A win there would do wonders for confidence and momentum, and would be the perfect way to prepare for Hyundai A-League opener against Brisbane Roar on 8 October.
The success of a season can largely hinge on how a team fares in its opening few games.
Fingers crossed we start off with a bang.