Cornthwaite’s Corner: Round 14

Robbie Cornthwaite has given his view on the Reds leading into Round 14.
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That’s the type of performance that can turn a season.

While it felt like doom and gloom for a few weeks there, Adelaide have kept in touch with the top four with just a single win. Such is the make-up of the table at the moment; it’s so tight.

There were several forced changes due to injury and suspension, and once again we saw a reshuffle in the back line – something that’s been a feature over the past few seasons.

Having to change your preferred eleven is never ideal, but on this occasion I saw it more as a blessing than a curse. There’d been stagnation over the past month, and some fresh legs and new energy were what was needed, in my opinion.

While it didn’t work out perfectly with the red card to Ben Warland, his sending off was the end product of a lack of football and another new centre-back pairing. The rest of the inclusions all had a positive impact and probably did enough to keep their place in the eleven.

Nick Ansell is one guy who won’t be going anywhere. His performance after such a long layoff was outstanding. He won every single ball that came into the penalty area and cleared the danger with authority. A few times, Macarthur looked to get a head or boot to the ball first but Nick snuffed out any threat. His performance epitomised that of his team.

Adelaide has been forced to play with 10-men a number of times recently and has not handled it well. The Mariners’ loss was a prime example of that. On Friday night, they weathered a five-minute period and scrambled well. After that, they looked more than comfortable and limited the Bulls to one or two moments of quality.

In fact, Hiroshi Ibusuki should have put Adelaide two up on the stroke of halftime. That’s now seven games without a goal for the Japanese striker, but I do think he had an excellent game. He led the line extremely well and won free kicks and throw-ins at the perfect times, taking pressure off his defence.

It was great to see Zach Clough on the scoresheet after his injury problems too. Goals from midfield have been few and far between, but it was his delivery from wide that was a highlight. The send-off meant he had to play wide right, and his delivery was high class. He’s another option in that position now, although I think Ben Halloran would be keen to get out of defence.

And with the odds against them, Joe Gauci came to the rescue often. Gauci is clearly the best young goalkeeper in the country and with all the talk about his eligibility to represent several nations (sorry about that), he’s a dark horse to be in Australia’s Asian Cup squad this year.

All in all, a resolute performance, but there’s no time to celebrate with Melbourne City on Sunday.

Melbourne City have clearly been the benchmark this season, and so they should be. They’re the most settled team on and off the field at the moment, and it’s reflected in their position on the league ladder.

With just one loss this season, Adelaide will have their work cut out, but City have dropped points in the past two weeks. They dominated Wanderers but could barely register a shot on target from more than 30 attempts. Last weekend, the two best defences went head-to-head, and it’s no surprise their clash with Brisbane ended in a stalemate.

Adelaide do have one advantage other teams don’t necessarily enjoy against City, and that’s a ridiculously good record. Melbourne City holds no fear for Adelaide, and that should be the case on Sunday. They need to go into the game believing they can win and show the same togetherness and resolve they showed against Macarthur with ten men.

Obviously, City have the most lethal attack in the league with Maclaren, Nabbout, Leckie, and Tilio, all current, or in Nabbout’s case, past Socceroos. Adelaide needs to see this as the ultimate challenge. The home team are likely to have the lion’s share of possession, which often suits United. Space in transition to play forward and attack at will. They need to be brave.

In the past 14 games, City has only won one twice in normal time, and three if you count the extra time win last season.

Adelaide should be fearless.

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