No frills finals form
Their blue-collar football won't win any beauty contests but Wellington and Perth are heading for the finals with the capacity to do real damage. And for both, the next few weeks will reveal whether they have the ingredients to match it with those at the top table.
Sometimes football can seem like it's being played on another planet.
Anyone who saw Lionel Messi catapult the game into another dimension against Bayer Leverkusen last week got a glimpse of something regal, almost mystical.
Yet it-s not the only way to satisfy your hunger for the game. Sometimes football is a blue-collar affair; not so much a sumptuous feast but a meat-and-three-veg home-cooked dish that satisfies all the same.
Certainly for two of the Hyundai A-League-s finals contenders, Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory, theirs is a no frills menu of football that might not satisfy the aficionados but gets the job done.
And for both, the next few weeks will reveal whether they have the ingredients to match it with those at the top table.
Both clubs put in important performances on the weekend.
Ricki Herbert-s team absorbed the pressure from an ambitious but ultimately profligate Melbourne Heart outfit that is trying to shape its brand of football in a similar mould to Ange Postecoglou-s Brisbane Roar.
Heart had the daring and dash of Dugandzic and Behich as well as the guile of Fred, and for long periods of the game Phoenix looked cumbersome and exasperated, like grown men trying to herd butterflies. They knew better though.
One of Ricki Herbert‘s strengths is his belief in the value of continuity in his squad. Leo Bertos, Tim Brown, Vince Lia, Andrew Durrante, Tony Lochead, Mark Paston and Manny Muscat are completing their fourth season together as Wellington players.
They know each other-s strengths and, just as crucially, their limitations, and play accordingly.
They produced one half-chance for striker Paul Ifill and that was enough for the former Millwall, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace to grab a precious point for Wellington as they look to secure a crucial home final.
With Melbourne Victory their next appointment at AAMI Park this Friday night, another successful smash-and=grab would complete a fabulous road trip.
Similarly for the Glory, the 1-nil win over a tired Central Coast Mariners sees them camped in third spot on the table, ahead of the Phoenix on goal difference.
Who would have thought that would be possible after the first nine weeks of the competition? Having started in swashbuckling style winning their first three games, Glory sank beneath the waves, picking up just one point from their next five matches.
After they were schooled by Brisbane Roar 4-0 in week 8 of the competition, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Ian Ferguson would have been scanning the job vacancies in the newspaper. How we-ve been proven wrong.
Since losing at home to the Mariners just before Christmas, Glory have lowered their colours just twice, showing a determination to sweat for results that has reaped rich rewards.
This weekend they head to the Gold Coast to take on a team that has nothing much to play for but are playing like their lives depend upon it. It-s a fascinating contest in prospect.
With inspirational skipper Jacob Burns nursing sore ribs and unlikely to play and Irish star Liam Miller struggling with a hamstring complaint resources are stretched.
Add to that the loss of Mile Sterjovski and defender Adam Hughes to Chinese clubs and Glory might just get to the promised land of finals football with an empty tank.
Though you-d never bet against them finding a way to win. Because it seems for both clubs, the tougher the challenge, the better they are.