Preview: North Queensland Fury v Adelaide United
The last time Adelaide and North Queensland met, football lovers were treated to one of the most thrilling contests this season, but one gets the feeling it will be a much more defensive clash this time round.
Date: Sunday September 27 Kick-off: 5:00pm AEST Venue: Dairy Farmer Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au
Head-to-head Played 1: Wins: 0. Draws: 1
Previous meeting Adelaide United 3, North Queensland Fury 3, Round 4, August 2009, Hindmarsh Stadium
Past five matches: North Queensland: Round 3: North Queensland 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 4: Adelaide United 3, North Queensland 3, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 5: North Queensland Fury 1, Brisbane Roar 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 6: Sydney FC 0, North Queensland 0, SFS Round 7: Wellington 1, North Queensland 1, Westpac Stadium
Adelaide United: Round 3: Adelaide United 0, Gold Coast United 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 4: Adelaide United 3, North Queensland Fury 3, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 5: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 1, Westpac Stadium Round 6: Adelaide United 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 7: Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium
Analysis: The last time Adelaide and North Queensland met, football lovers were treated to one of the most thrilling contests this season. But six-goal epics don't come around too often and this time, one gets the feeling it will be a much more defensive clash when the Reds travel to Dairy Farmers Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Adelaide just can't seem to take a trick this year. Every time it appears the Reds have overcome their difficult start to the season, they receive another setback. A 1-0 win over the Mariners a fortnight ago should have been the kickstart that re-launched their campaign, but once again luck turned against them in the seventh minute last week when a speculative - at best - ball by Melbourne's Nick Ward turned into the opening goal, paving the way for the Victory's 2-0 win.
The main problem for coach Aurelio Vidmar appears to be the lack of scoring options. The Reds have only scored six times this season and three of those goals came in the previously mentioned clash with the Fury. After a pre-season interrupted by swine flu, striker Lloyd Owusu is struggling to find his touch and without those early goals in particular, opposition teams just don't need to come out of their shells against the Reds. The club also hasn't been helped by a terrible run with injuries over the first seven rounds. It hasn't got any better for Vidmar this week either, the coach receiving confirmation that instrumental midfielder Paul Reid (thigh/quad) and Michael Marrone (knee) could miss the next month, while he also lost Alamao to a broken nose for this week's clash. Francesco Monterosso and Insheob Shin have both been promoted but once again, the Reds appear a little light on from their best team and much will depend on another inspirational performance from skipper Travis Dodd if Adelaide's to earn a third win this season. Fortunately, in terms of ladder position, Adelaide's two wins see it sitting in seventh position and a few good results could rapidly take the South Australians up the table in such a tight competition.
Last-placed North Queensland in the meantime, appear to be in a similar position to Adelaide in terms of luck going against them, although the Fury do boast a powerful forward in the form of Robbie Fowler. Despite conceding the opening goal in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Wellington, it was the Fury that finished stronger, with Fowler flagged offside for a netted equaliser before the former Liverpool man's 94th-minute free kick led to Chris Grossman slotting home from the very last kick. Indeed, since being belted by the Gold Coast 5-0, the Fury have been more than competitive in all their matches, having snatched a 1-0 result in Sydney along the way.
Where Adelaide boasts a fairly robust defence and applies some excellent pressure through the midfield, the Fury have the worst record of goals scored against them, having conceded 14 times in seven games. However, that figure is somewhat inflated by the 5-0 blow-out and that 3-3 draw with the Reds. Since then, the club has conceded just twice in three matches. It's probably too early to say whether Ian Ferguson has fixed his side's defensive problems, but his goalkeeper Paul Henderson appears to be growing in confidence with every game he plays and his back four seem to be operating as a much more cohesive unit.
The defence, though, is helped by the fact his attacking midfield forces opposition teams to think twice about taking the game on. The central four will be further boosted this week by the return of instrumental midfielder Ufuk Talay, who will cause plenty of headaches for Vidmar in tandem with Robbie Middleby and James Robinson, who continues to enjoy a breakout season up north. Such is the strength of Ferguson's midfield this week, he can afford to drop livewire left winger Fred Agius for this clash.
As much as the neutral wants to see goals scored in a rush like the last time these sides played, one suspects Adelaide will take a conservative approach to this clash while trying to grind out a 1-0 win. But if the shackles get broken, watch out, there could still be plenty of goals after all.
North Queensland squad: 1.Paul HENDERSON (gk), 2. Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3.Chris TADROSSE, 4. Scott WILSON, 6. Ufuk TALAY, 7. Jason SPAGNUOLO, 8.Shane STEFANUTTO, 9.Robbie FOWLER (c), 11.David WILLIAMS, 12. Jack HINGERT, 14.Chris GROSSMAN, 16.Paul KOHLER, 17. Osama MALIK, 18.James ROBINSON, 19.Daniel MCBREEN, 20.Justin PASFIELD (gk) , 21.John TAMBOURAS, 23.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 30. Matt HAM (gk). *three to be omitted/GK to be omitted*
In: Osama MALIK (promoted), Jack HINGERT(promoted), Justin PASFIELD (promoted), Ufuk TALAY (returns from injury) Out: Fred Agius (not selected) Unavailable: Karl DODD (Knee -6 weeks) Jacob Timpano (hamstring - indefinite), Jeremy Brockie (quadriceps - 2 weeks)
Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 4.Iain FYFE, 6.CASSIO, 7.Lucas PANTELIS, 8. Kristian SARKIES, 9.CRISTIANO, 10.Adam HUGHES, 11.Lloyd OWUSU, 13.Travis DODD (c), 14.Scott JAMIESON, 15. Francesco MONTEROSSO, 16.Inseob SHIN, 19. Mathew LECKIE, 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 21.Mark RUDAN *one to be omitted*
In: Francesco MONTEROSSO (promoted), Inseob SHIN (promoted) Out: ALEMAO (broken nose - 1 week) Unavailable: Daniel MULLEN (international duty), Paul REID (thigh/quad - 3 weeks), Michael MARRONE (knee - 4 weeks), Joe COSTA (knee - 6 months)