The Big Five Answers | round 18

Last week we said Sydney FC could be Ricky Bobby - but now we know they're only Clark Griswold...

Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United: Can the Reds fire away? What we all witnessed in Gosford on Friday night was the shredding of the last bit of belief that Adelaide could win the league this season.

The Mariners could have - and should have - filled their pockets in the first half at Bluetongue Stadium, with Graham Arnold-s side at their clinical best to expose every hole in the Adelaide set-up.

As it was, the comprehensive victory gave the Mariners a five-point cushion at the top of the table, while Adelaide left themselves to overtaken by Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney.

Barring a spectacular collapse the Reds will still make the finals - but on current form they would be desperate for a home game to have any hope of progressing.

As for the Mariners - nine games left and they don-t look like stopping. The loss of Tom Rogic and probably Bernie Ibini looked like it could hurt them - until Arnie pulled Mitchell Duke and Nick Fitzgerald out of his hat.

The sheer consistency of the squad means the Central Coast boss can afford to lose one or two flair players, knowing the rest of team will still create chances for those new ones he brings in.

Is anyone betting against a second consecutive premiership for the Mariners?

Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory: Have Sydney turned the corner? Forget Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights; Sydney FC are more like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon-s European Vacation. They thought they were turning a corner, until they realised they were just on a really big roundabout, destined to go around in circles until they can figure out how where the hell they're supposed to be going.

But it doesn-t look like Sydney will ever have a roadmap to follow, even when their biggest rivals give them directions.

In six months, Ange Postecoglou has turned Victory into the sort of fluid, coherent team that the Sky Blues haven-t managed in six years.

No glamourous marquees for the Victory; just a balanced, hungry squad where everyone knows his job and does it with confidence and support.

Sydney-s false dawn against Wellington Phoenix was a typical of the club; a moment of headline-hogging in a season of dysfunction. The club must sort out the coaching situation asap, and they need to show the sort of long-term planning that has defined Melbourne Victory.

At AAMI Park, Sydney couldn-t match Melbourne-s movement with and off the ball; too often they were undone by a simple pass and resorted to physicality to try to pull Victory back, but only ended up disrupting their own team.

At least Sydney now have a clear direction: make the finals or consider the season an absolute failure.

Wanderers FC v Melbourne Heart: Heart or heartless? We knew the Wanderers would be the Wanderers - we just didn-t know how Wanderers they could be.

If ever a club defined themselves, it was Western Sydney last night - it-s no wonder their support has become so fanatical in such a short space of time. How could you not love your local club when they put in a performance like that?

This isn-t an FFA puff piece for Western Sydney; we-ve seen plenty of those - but Tony Popovic-s side were genuinely inspiring last night. Down to 10 men and a penalty conceded after just five minutes? So what? We-ll save your bloody penalty and then we-ll run you so ragged you won-t even know you-ve got an extra man.

And you have to credit Melbourne Heart in this drama. They played the role of fall guy perfectly. John Aloisi-s side-s inconsistency and away troubles are clear but when they fail to take advantage of a situation like that, it-s hard not to believe there are some deeper failings.

Perhaps it-s belief, perhaps it-s the system, who knows - but they just didn-t show the same desire as their hosts and Heart-s finals hopes lie on a knife-edge as a result.

Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar: Can the Roar keep it together? After the Australia Day feast served up by Saturday-s earlier matches, this third course was like the last crusty lamington on the plate.

Credit to Brisbane Roar for getting an important three points on the road - but just what in the name of Les Murray is going on with Perth Glory?

If scoring a goal was a meat pie, Glory would squirt the sauce in their eye. We wouldn-t trust Ian Ferguson-s men to put a tea bag in a mug right now.

How many chances did they spurn, including a Nick Ward sky over the bar when Michael Theo was 10 yards out of his goal. We don-t know whether this means Perth are set to give someone a spanking soon or that Fergie seriously needs to sign another attacker or three. Or perhaps they just need an eye test... G LO RYC OULD N-THITA BARNDOOR

Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets: Is it back to basic for the Phoenix? If we meant back to basics as in struggling to dominate the game and to create many clear-cut chances, then yes, this was the Phoenix of old.

Alright, that-s a little cynical but it-s only because we-re upset that Phoenix aren-t their usual gritty selves at the moment. There was very little in the way of cojones on display and it certainly wasn-t sexy football on show in Wellington. This was more like a wet weekend in, well, Wellington.

The main positive is that Ricki Herbert-s side came back from their thumping by Sydney FC. They didn-t get all three points but they certainly didn-t give the game away like they did last week.

Herbert seems set on following this passing game but doubts remain whether his current squad has the attributes to carry it off. This team was built for a different kind of football - and not necessarily a worse kind - and they were good at it.

Newcastle, for their part, remain obstinate of not particularly inspiring. A season that carried a fair bit of hope and expectation has petered out to become the dreaded “rebuilding phase”.

Yes they-re on course for a finals berth - but 10 points behind fourth place? The gap between the top four and the rest this season speaks volumes.