Our man in Melbourne, ABC football commentator Francis Leach, assesses the resurgent Melbourne City FC's chances of staying in the Hyundai A-League six ahead of their six-pointer with Roar this Saturday.
In football there are some things you simply can’t plan for. Just ask Brisbane Roar FC.
As it poured misery over the Roar at Suncorp Stadium in Round 22, a little ray of sunshine was seen to peek through the clouds at Melbourne City FC’s Bundoora HQ.
Much to the frustration of coach Frans Thijssen, Roar were forced to abandon their pursuit of an equaliser against leaders Wellington Phoenix due to the appalling weather.
City’s hard fought win at Sydney FC on Friday night has given them a five-point buffer over Brisbane in 6th spot, though the defending champions have two games in hand.
His squad will be shorn of crucial players Matt McKay and Luke DeVere who are on Socceroos duty for this midweek game against the struggling Wanderers.
Suddenly, Brisbane Roar are chasing hard to keep their title defence alive.
In football, misfortune and blind luck are often opposite sides of the same coin.
It’s good fortune Melbourne City simply must make the most of.
City’s stop-start season seemed to have hit the wall a fortnight ago when it lost to Central Coast Mariners in Gosford then let a lead slip late at Paramatta Stadium to give the Wanderers a rare home success this season.
It seemed the same old scenario from City, flattering to deceive and spurning opportunity at the most inopportune moment.
A confidence boosting 4-0 win at home over Newcastle Jets was followed up by a 1-0 smash and grab raid at the expense of Graham Arnold’s Sky Blues last Friday night.
Suddenly, City’s season had a heartbeat again.
The most attractive thing about Friday night’s performance was City learning to win ugly.
For long periods Van’t Schip’s team were under the pump as the Sky Blues went searching for a win that would have taken them top of the table.
Mark Janko, in irrepressible goal scoring form, looked most likely to break the deadlock.
Yet when the decisive moment came it wasn’t the league’s hottest marksman who provided it, but one of the competition’s forgotten men.
James Brown is a mercurial talent. A peripheral figure at City for most of the season, he hadn’t scored for Jon Van’t Schip’s team since joining at the start of the campaign.
In fact, Brown’s last goal was in Gold Coast United colours back in 2012.
So when he popped up with the winner in this game, it’s fair to say City fans were both surprised and delighted.
The win against Sydney FC was only the second time this season City have managed consecutive victories.
It’s that lack of consistency and capacity to build momentum that so frustrates the fans. And it needs to change.
There are signs though that Van’t Schip’s team are building a reputation for being tough to crack at home.
Aside from an “away” loss at AAMI Park at Melbourne Victory in early February, City are unbeaten in their last seven home games.
That growing reputation may stand them in good stead for Saturday night’s crucial clash with a battle weary Brisbane Roar.
This game is likely to define the fate of both clubs this season.
For City it presents an opportunity to finally build on the hard fought gains of recent weeks.
On too many occasions such moments have been squandered.
There’s simply no room for excuses this time.