After two tough away trips in consecutive weeks, the Wanderers will finally return to Pirtek Stadium on Saturday night to take on Melbourne Heart.
After the undeserved loss against Brisbane Roar, the Wanderers failed to bounce back against a Wellington Phoenix side desperate for their first win of the season.
The last meeting between the two teams ended in a draw, with Phoenix testing the Wanderers’ resolve throughout the 90 minutes.
This round was no different, and the Phoenix will be left wondering how they didn’t take all three points from this one.
It was a match for the two goalkeepers with Ante Covic arguably the Wanderers’ man of the match along with the always-impressive Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
Injuries seem to be taking a toll on the Wanderers, as on paper they look far less threatening with many key names missing.
The absence of Shinji Ono leaves a creative gap in midfield, and Aaron Mooy seems far more ineffective when Shinji is not on the pitch.
Tony Popovic opted for a completely different attack in the match against the Phoenix, with Tahj Minniecon and Labinot Haliti given rare starts.
Besides that early chance the duo struggled to threaten the opposition, and unfortunately didn’t even come close to filling the void left by the injured Tomi Juric.
Unfortunately for the Wanderers they are missing those ‘game-changing’ players, the ones that will step up when the team needs them and deliver the goods.
Word from the Wanderers camp is the possibility of a Shinji Ono return, which will put a smile on the face of every Wanderers fan around the country.
“Ono won’t play this week. He is progressing well and we are hopeful, if he ticks all the boxes, he will be available next week,’’ said Tony Popovic before the match against Wellington Phoenix. Let’s hope those words ring true.
There is not much word on the current injury situation for Tomi Juric, but I’m sure the Wanderers medical staff will do whatever it takes to get the target man back as soon as possible.
The possible return of Shinji Ono coupled with the timely return of the dangerous Youssouf Hersi will be welcome additions on Saturday when the Wanderers face-up against yet another winless side, Melbourne Heart. The previous meeting between the two teams resulted in a 1-0 victory for the Wanderers, with Shannon Cole grabbing the winner.
The Heart are coming off the back of a 3-3 draw with Adelaide United, in a match where they were probably lucky to grab a point. They surrendered 70 per cent of the ball at home, which is unacceptable. They are in desperate need of a win, though I can’t see it coming against the Wanderers.
Having said that, Adelaide had them on the ropes last weekend and they fought back and showed plenty of heart (excuse the pun).
The win will come at some point, but one would think it’s almost impossible to come at Wanderland.
The Heart may welcome back Jonatan Germano and Jason Hoffman for the match on Saturday, but unfortunately for them I’m predicting another week without a win and the Wanderers should win this comfortably.
In fact, the Wanderers need to put a few goals on the board and prove that they are a force in this competition.
They may sit in second place on the ladder, but it is quite clear that the Wanderers are slipping and the intensity is not quite what it was last season.
However, the right man is in charge to turn that around. Tony Popovic will know exactly what is needed to make the Wanderers fire. Let’s hope he implements it this Saturday night.