The Wanderers blew a two-goal lead against Newcastle yesterday, held to a draw in their first outing at temporary home ground Spotless Stadium.
Popovic couldn’t put his finger on why such a cohesive first half gave way to fragmented play that allowed Newcastle to capitalise, but was adamant there was still much work to be done if the league’s youngest outfit are to reach a fourth grand final in five years.
“We’re nowhere near the level that we want the team to be,” Popovic said.
“In the end they kept coming, and credit to them, but we certainly game them a chance.
“We weren’t good enough in our play in that last 30 minutes. We’ll get stronger, we know we will. It’s a work in progress, regardless of the result.
“We’ll get more match fit and more cohesive, but we looked a very good team in the first half so that’s probably ahead of where we were last year in terms of our football.”
Popovic absolved goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne of blame for two mistakes that directly led to late Jets goals for Nigel Boogaard and Andrew Hoole.
First, Redmayne was caught adrift when Hoole’s free-kick allowed Boogaard to head home.
Then the gloveman was booked for racing from his box to foul Morten Nordstrand before fumbling Hoole’s subsequent free-kick over the line and negating first-half goals to Aritz Borda and new captain Dimas.
“Mistakes happen in football,” Popovic said.
“Nine times out of 10 it’s how goals are scored.”
He was less happy with speedy Jumpei Kusukami. despite the Japanese winger’s standout display.
“I actually don’t think he was that good,” Popovic said.
“I don’t think in the second half he played anywhere near what he’s been able to do, which is a good sign for us.
“We see glimpses of what he can do daily which will happen once we get more match fit and more cohesive.”
A crowd of 13,247 turned out to watch the Wanderers in their first match at the oval-shaped AFL venue.
“The atmosphere was good when you consider it’s an AFL ground,” Popovic said.
“The pitch was great to play on.
“The fans go home disappointed but bit by bit we have to try and make sure this is a fortress as much as Parramatta was.”
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