Heart fails to get the blood pumpingCentral Coast won a lacklustre game at AAMI Park on Sunday against a sometimes feeble and always toothless home side. The Mariners didn't deserve it. Though Heart deserved nothing either. Perhaps both teams should have points deducted for their display. And the crowd of 6357 wasn’t too flash either – although the home end impressed in never letting up their chants. However, they need to be careful with the taunt to the Mariners, “Your support is fucking shit”. It’s crass, derivative and an invitation to karma.
Heart showed some fire in patches but nowhere near enough while the Mariners scored through a glorious 51st-minute Pedj Bojic free kick wheeled straight in from the training ground. The northerners held on to that barest of leads through a structure best described as solid in keeping out an attack best described as vague.
Yet the game might have been a little different had the hard-working Richard Garcia put away a golden opportunity early on instead of blasting wide. Fred (replaced through injury at half-time) was typically creative and influential and David Williams and Aziz Behich also showed some early fire on the flanks. This creativity however was soon extinguished as mistakes started to disrupt the fluidity of the play and the match settled into what one press-box wag described as one resembling a “training game”. While Heart at least tried to build from the back, the Mariners preferred the counter-attacking (often long-ball) route from the outset and this remained a constant in their performance.
From a Heart perspective there were just a few positives. Fred, a cut above, and Garcia gestured towards the kind of midfield Heart might be constructing. Mate Dugandzic, playing as an attacking midfielder in place of Fred also showed signs that might convince coach John Aloisi to persevere with him in that role. But the forwards and those who found themselves on the front line will have to be more committed to making the right choices, whether shooting or making that killer pass.
Probably the most positive sign for Heart was something that occurred off the pitch. Heart’s new recruit, Vinnie Grella, stationed in the coaches’ room next to the media box was in great danger of putting out the window when Josip Tadic missed a sitter that would have seen the scores level with 20 minutes to go. Banging the glass in frustration, Grella expressed the kind of passion and energy that Heart will need if they are to produce the results that so much of their play deserves.
The game concluded in a brighter vein. As time ticked down, Heart attacked in waves that were competently repulsed by a defence untested by committed precision play in the attacking third. In the press conference after the game the coaches’ bearing told the whole story. Graham Arnold had the pickpocket smile of a man who had just got three points when none would have been a fairer representation of his team’s performance. John Aloisi’s face suggested a man who had reached into his pocket to find his wallet gone and in its place a three-week-old entry ticket to Etihad Stadium. Heart needs to recapture that opening round spirit and recapture it quickly. It will be found in the attacking third of Parramatta Stadium if they care to look.
This match report first published in Goal Weekly