Bump in the road for Glory

The travel bug has again bitten Perth in their attempts to move up the Hyundai A-League ladder with the West Australian side succumbing 2-1 to Newcastle in the penultimate round of the season.

The travel bug has again bitten Perth in their attempts to move up the Hyundai A-League ladder with the West Australian side succumbing 2-1 to Newcastle in the penultimate round of the season.

The Glory has won just once on the road this season and will have a final opportunity to improve on that record when they tackle Queensland Roar in Brisbane next weekend.

“It is a long trip, the flight right across the country and a two and a half hour bus ride thrown in, but we-ve got to become better away from home and we-ll look at the measures we can take to help achieve that," Coach Dave Mitchell said.

Outplayed in the first half, Perth managed a spirited late rally at EnergyAustralia Stadium with Scott Bulloch grabbing his first goal for the Glory.

Bulloch was one of four changes made to the starting eleven, as Mitchell was forced to reshuffle his pack in a bid to replace some notable absentees, including top scorers Eugene Dadi and Nikita Rukavytsya.

Tando Velaphi was back in goal while defender David Tarka made his first start since September and Nick Rizzo was promoted on the left with Victor Sikora partnering Bulloch in attack.

“We had quite a few players playing different roles and we looked out of sorts in the first half but I was happy with the way we came out after the break and we applied plenty of pressure down the stretch and possibly could have got something out the game,” said Mitchell.

Clear-cut goal scoring opportunities were rather thin on the ground, although Jets midfielder Matt Thompson had two early half-chances however Velaphi was alert to the danger and didn-t look like being beaten from the home side-s long range attempts.

Glory-s midfield found itself forced onto the back foot, largely preventing wide men Rizzo and Adriano Pellegrino from bringing their influence to bear as an attacking force. Consequently, for all their intelligent off the ball running, Bulloch and Sikora received little in the way of service and struggled to overcome a resolute home defence.

While Perth struggled to get any real fluency up front they could thank Velaphi at the other end of the pitch for keeping them in the match, the young ‘keeper again denying Wheelhouse on the half hour with a wonderful reflex save from an angled shot that looked destined for the far corner.

The Glory finally managed to get an effort on goal in the 36th minute when Harnwell powered a header from a pin-point Pellegrino corner only to see it rebound off a Jets defender and wide of the upright.

Newcastle secured the opening goal five minutes later when defender Antun Kovacic headed in from a well placed corner.

The interval saw an animated Dave Mitchell leave his charges in no doubt as to what was expected of them in the second period and his words seemed to have an instant effect, the Glory carving out a decent opportunity in the first minute. Rizzo-s low cross forcing Jets ‘keeper Ante Covic into a smart stop to keep out Sikora-s near post effort.

Just as Glory seemed poised to force their way back into the contest, however, they fell victim to a penalty decision that was again line ball. Tarka was adjudged to have upended Matt Thompson as he raced in on goal, but despite the initial contact seeming to have taken place outside the box, debutant referee Kris Griffiths-Jones pointed to the spot and Mark Milligan converted to extend the lead.

To their credit, Perth refused to throw in the towel and duly regained a foothold in the game midway through the second-half. Sikora-s influence had been growing throughout the afternoon and it came as no surprise that the tenacious Dutchman was the architect of Glory-s goal. He linked up cleverly with Rizzo down the left before slipping the ball unselfishly across the face of goal where Bulloch was perfectly placed to apply a calm close-range finish.

“You can see that Victor is a good player, he creates, has a good touch and worked hard throughout the match,” Mitchell said.

“He has fitted into the team very well in just a short time and is the kind of player we want to have around next season. We-ll sit down and work through those details in the next few weeks,” Mitchell said.

Clearly rattled by the goal, the Jets proceeded to pull men back behind the ball and Glory didn-t need a second invitation to seize the initiative. Rizzo blazed over the bar before Covic blocked a fierce angled drive from Pellegrino as the visitors cranked up the late pressure.

With only eight minutes remaining the Jets were again grateful to Covic who raced from his line to smother at the feet of the onrushing Bulloch who continued to run out the match solidly.

The result means Glory missed a chance to leapfrog Sydney into sixth and but with several youngsters getting match time Mitchell believes the club is well on the way to building a talented line-up for next season.

“There is no question about our desire to finish off the season on a good note and at the same time we-re also able to look longer term and the young guys are getting great experience.

“We-re looing forward to the challenge of Queensland next week. They have a lot to play for with a top two spot up for grabs but we-ll be doing everything we can to take the points and spoil their party,” Mitchell said.

Hyundai A-League Rd20

Newcastle Jets 2 (Antun Kovacic 41-, Mark Milligan 54-pen) Perth Glory 1 (Scott Bulloch 65-) Sunday 18 January, 2009 at EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle

Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones Assistant Referees: Rodney Allen, Aaron Strickland Fourth official: Stuart Wolfe Crowd: 6,665

Newcastle Jets line-up: 1.Ante COVIC (gk), 7.Kaz PATAFTA, 8.Matt THOMPSON (28.Jarrad ROSS 76-), 10.Jin-Hyung SONG, 11.Tarek ELRICH, 12.Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 13.Adam D-APUZZO, 16.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 17.Antun KOVACIC, 26.Mark MILLIGAN, 32.Brodie MOOY (27.Jesse PINTO 85-)

Substitutes not used: 30.Justin PASFIELD (gk), 33.Taylor REGAN Yellow Cards: Jobe Wheelhouse 59- Red Cards: Nil

Perth Glory line-up: 30.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 3.David TARKA, 4.Jamie COYNE (c) (28.Andrija JUKIC 65-), 5.Jamie HARNWELL, 7.Nick RIZZO (2.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY 75-), 11.Scott BULLOCH (15.Hayden DOYLE 85-), 16.Adriano PELLEGRINO, 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI, 22.Wayne SRHOJ, 29.Victor SIKORA, 31.Scott NEVILLE

Substitutes not used: 1.Jason PETKOVIC (gk) Yellow Cards: David Tarka 54- Red Cards: Nil