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A cheeky half-glass for Red fans

Manton St Tales

After Adelaide United’s thumping win over the Jets, soccer columnist Paul Marcuccitti offers a mea culpa – and a warning.

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If you feel like thanking me, just send an email to InDaily and someone will get back to you with the relevant bank account details. Because after I more-or-less wrote United off and questioned the signing of Džengis Čavušević, there could only be one outcome: the Reds’ best victory of the season with the imposing striker starring.

To cling on to my last shreds of credibility, let me remind you that I also said that you should click the turnstiles to see Johan Absalonsen – probably the best advice I’ve given lately.

It’s easy to see United’s shock 5-2 win over high-flying Newcastle as the latest instalment in a topsy-turvy A-League season, not just for the Reds but the competition generally.

Going into this round, Melbourne Victory was bound to be a late-season menace, Adelaide United was faltering while a surging Brisbane Roar threatened its spot in the finals, and, with its leaky defence, Perth Glory was destined to achieve little more than ensuring it would avoid winning the wooden spoon.

If it didn’t quite invalidate all those statements, the recently completed round at least challenged all of them.

Now the six clubs from third to eighth are covered by just eight points and, with three weekends until playoffs, the permutations involving those teams remain plentiful.

Reds fans can find positives for the remaining rounds: fit match-winning players finding form at the right time, a third consecutive home game to come (and against the bottom-placed side) and, even beyond that, the draw might not be so bad.

The second-last round against Sydney FC could even offer an opening as the Sky Blues might have already wrapped up the premiership and will have played a midweek match in Korea.

Then it’s a trip to face Western Sydney Wanderers, who you’d call inconsistent if they were the only team worthy of that epithet.

Of course, I’m rarely here to provide optimism so I’d instead like to remind you about Round 27 in 2014-15.

Then, as now, United had been faltering late in the season. And, also as now, there were question marks over a recently-signed overseas player – Miguel Palanca.

But against a Melbourne City side boasting several stars, United found some form, rolled to a 4-1 win, and Palanca put in his best shift with the club which included opening the scoring.

It proved to be a blip. Though the Reds would celebrate a late Awer Mabil winner in the following week’s playoff against Brisbane, the match after that would see their season end with a 4-1 loss to Sydney.

So if you’re a glass-half-empty type, you could see some similarities in Friday night’s win over Newcastle: a late-season thumping of a strong opponent after a poor run of form with a strong possibility that normal service will soon resume.

And in fairness to Friday night’s visitors, they had excuses – similar to the ones we’ve applied for Adelaide United for much of the season.

The Jets recently lost Andrew Nabbout to Urawa Red Diamonds, Dimi Petratos is away with the Socceroos, Roy O’Donovan was out through suspension and Nigel Boogaard is injured. On the pitch, Ronald Vargas is clearly still working his way to full fitness having suffered a horrific leg break early in the season.

There you go – reasons to treat United’s win with caution and remain pessimistic. Don’t say I never do anything for you.

In the lead up to the Wellington game, the spotlight might be on Reds’ coach Marco Kurz as he has some big selection decisions to make.

Throughout the season he has kept faith with Nikola Mileusnic but will that continue with Absalonsen a certain starter on the attacking left and Ryan Kitto’s fine goal against Newcastle (after coming on as a substitute) building his case for the spot on the right?

There might also be a temptation to consider Tarek Elrich in place of Ben Garuccio.

Even though United scored five against the Jets, the biggest cheer of the night was saved for Elrich who came on to the field in the second half and – nearly a full year after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury – looked assured.

Vince Lia also returned (also as a substitute) having not played since Boxing Day.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Kurz finding the best 11 – whatever it may be at this point – could be decisive in these last few matches.

Which, fortunately, will remain interesting for both Reds fans and most other followers of the A-League.

Paul Marcuccitti is InDaily’s soccer columnist.

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