Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix
Thursday December 31, 7pm
Central Coast Mariners have picked up just 2 draws since their opening day victory over Perth Glory but in that time the effort from such a young team has remained pretty good and they have somehow remained reasonably confident, that was until last week. Even in the 1-5 loss to Melbourne City they had their chances but last week against Sydney FC they seemingly lost interest and were completely inept and for that the coach and owner must foot the blame.
Wellington Phoenix were in the match with Adelaide until the sending off of Albert Riera in the 56th minute and fell to an own goal, a goal keeper howler and a third sucker punch once they were out of the match. Given the fact they had several players out injured it was certainly no disaster.
Looking further into the Mariners form makes for grim reading. In their first 6 matches they won one and drew two with eight goals for and 12 against whereas they lost each of their last six scoring just four goals and conceding 16. In fairness Fabio Ferreira has missed most of the last 6 matches and should start this week along with Mitch Austin which may help their scoring rates. But with no new personal and now an 18 year old keeper to make his starting debut their defence, if anything, is even weaker.
The Nix themselves have struggled in their last six matches with one win and two draws and the goals have likewise dried up with just three scored. Their fixture list has not been kind though with only one match in Wellington and they have played Sydney twice, Western Sydney, Victory (their only win), Brisbane and an improving Adelaide. They have conceded just eight goals in that time but as I stated have really struggled with injuries and suspension to key defenders which eases this week with the return of Justin Gulley and Tom Doyle.
On a normal day I wouldn’t have much between these two however given talk of unrest in the Mariners camp and the fact that unless outstanding monies are paid in the next 14 days the players may all be able to claim free agency, I’m happy to side against the home team even if the price on Wellington is already discounted to some extent.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Adelaide United
Friday January 1, 7:40pm
Western Sydney Wanderers eased to a 2-0 win over Newcastle last week, there were a couple of scary moments in defence but largely it was a pretty straight forward match. Unfortunately they managed to score in injury time in the 1st half to cost us the Draw/Wanderers half full double tip.
They have now won eight of their last nine conceding just five goals, keeping five clean sheets and scored two goals in seven of those nine matches. Three of the nine have resulted in 2-0 wins.
Adelaide United as noted above were 3-0 winners over Wellington bringing their unbeaten run to 4 matches with 3 wins. They have been heavily benefited by opposition red cards 2 in the last 3 matches along with a penalty and own goal and a goal keeper howler accounting for 3 of their 6 goals score.
Both teams create almost identical numbers of shots (14) and shots on target (5) per match. However the conversion rates help explain the difference in the teams. Wanderers have converted 16% of total shots and 36% of shots on target to goals, Adelaide however convert at 6% and 13% respectively for a clear last rank in the league.
Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory
Sunday January 3, 5pm
Last week Newcastle were not disgraced in losing 2-0 to table-topping Western Sydney and actually forced a couple of good saves from Andrew Redmayne from their only two shots on target.
After winning three of their first four matches, including a 1-0 win over the Victory they have managed just four draws from their last eight matches. They are averaging just two shots on target per match, two clear goals less than the next lowest in the competition which explains their measly total of just nine goals in 12 matches and not scored for the last 378 minutes. Defensively they have been quite sound conceding just 15 goals and considering 10 of those have come against City (6) and Western Sydney (4) the two top scoring teams in the league the average of just 0.5 goals conceded from the other 10 matches is very good. It is interesting that they have faced just four shots on target less than the Mariners but conceded 13 goals less, mostly due to the impressive from of goal keeper Mark Birighitti.
Melbourne Victory let us down by conceding late on to Perth after leading at half time. They were quite poor and definitely seemed to have a big let-down from the derby match last week.
If we exclude the 13 shots on goal they compiled in the derby they have averaged just 4 shots on target, which is nearer the bottom of the rankings albeit only just below the league average. Still it is a disappointing return for last season’s top scoring team. Defensively they have failed to keep a clean sheet since round 4 and managed just the 2 (17% of matches) all season. Contrast that with 11 clean sheets from 29 matches (38%) last season and it is clear they are not travelling terribly well.
It is tempting to side with Newcastle but without David Carney (suspended) the safer play is to back the under 2.5 goals for 2 units at 2+