Whatever happens in Sunday’s do-or-die clash with Melbourne Heart here at nib Stadium, 2011-2012 is not a season that will be quickly forgotten by anyone associated with Perth Glory.
Whatever happens in Sunday-s do-or-die clash with Melbourne Heart here at nib Stadium, 2011-2012 is not a season that will be quickly forgotten by anyone associated with Perth Glory.
A flood of new arrivals and a high-profile friendly with Celtic just about staved off the tedium of a seemingly never-ending off-season and once the new campaign finally got underway, it was drama all the way.
Glory started with a bang, outclassing a well-fancied Adelaide United side in Week One before clinching consecutive wins at Melbourne Heart and at home against Wellington. Title talk was in the air, but Bluetongue Stadium yet again proved a bridge too far in Week 4 as Ian Ferguson-s side went down 2-1 to the Mariners. Scott Neville then picked up a serious knee injury in training ahead of the following game at Newcastle and a miserable trip to the east coast was completed by another defeat at the hands of the Jets who caught the visitors cold with two goals in the first eleven minutes.
Fortune deserted the men in purple in Week 6 as Sydney somehow survived a barrage of second-half pressure to inflict Glory-s first home loss of the season and their luck again seemed to be out the following week at Melbourne Victory when Liam Miller was controversially sent off, the home side were gifted a penalty and led 2-0 with less than half-an-hour to play. Showing the kind of character that would prove to be the bedrock of their New Year resurgence, however, Glory roared back, Andrezinho-s sweet free-kick providing hope and Shane Smeltz-s late header sealing a well-deserved and vital away point.
With Chris Coyne and Evan Berger joining Neville on the injury list, Trent McClenahan was drafted in as defensive cover in mid-November, but he could do little as Glory found themselves steamrolled by the Brisbane Roar juggernaut which crushed them to the tune of 4-0.
December duly arrived and with it a first win in six as Gold Coast were undone by a brace of penalties from Smeltz and Mile Sterjovski, but consecutive defeats at Wellington and at home against both Heart and the Mariners meant that Christmas cheer was thin on the ground in the Glory camp.
Two draws either side of the New Year, however, changed the momentum of the season entirely and Fergie and co never looked back. Tiago-s shameless theatrics led to Billy Mehmet receiving a ludicrous red card with barely half-an-hour played at Newcastle, but Glory somehow hung on to earn an heroic point and then it was back to nib Stadium where six goals were shared with reigning champions Brisbane in a thrilling contest. Despite their improvement, however, few observers fancied Glory-s chances of returning from their epic trip to Wellington with three points and yet that was exactly what they did. In typically atrocious New Zealand conditions, Josh Mitchell popped up deep into stoppage time to head home the winner and a week later there was more away day joy for the West Australians as Smeltz and an in-form Steven McGarry found the net in a 2-1 win over Heart at AAMI Park.
A re-arranged fixture against Sydney meant that Glory faced a third successive away game in the space of just ten days, but again they dug deep to claim a positive result as this time substitute Adam Hughes provided a late, late leveller in a 1-1 draw.
Now unbeaten in five, Ferguson-s side were oozing confidence and their next three outings yielded nine points and eleven goals. Victory were dismantled 4-1 at nib Stadium, Adelaide were trounced 3-0 at Hindmarsh and hapless Gold Coast flew home licking their wounds after a 4-0 hammering.
Suddenly there was talk of a top four finish and although a speed bump duly appeared in the form of a defeat at Sydney, Glory were back to full throttle the following week in a comfortable 2-0 home win over Newcastle that lifted them to third on the ladder.
While Brisbane again proved unstoppable in Week 21, another trip to Adelaide produced another three points and despite both Mile Sterjovski and Adam Hughes opting to jump ship and head to China in early March, league leaders Central Coast were still beaten at nib Stadium thanks to an opportunist finish from Travis Dodd.
The penultimate game of the regular season then saw Dean Heffernan given his marching orders as Glory failed to fire in a shock 3-0 defeat at Gold Coast and with several first-team regulars missing through injury, the home side were tipped by many to struggle in their final game against Melbourne Victory. How wrong they were. With third place and the prospect of two home finals on the line, Shane Smeltz fired home all four goals in a 4-2 romp, ably assisted by a clutch of talented young West Aussies including Brandon O-Neill, Sam Mitchinson, Josh Risdon and a returning Scott Neville.
And so to nib Stadium for Sunday-s historic first ever home A-League final. Time to buckle up and hold on, because if the rest of the season-s anything to go by, it could be one hell of a ride.