There’s a new Golden Boot leader after history-making display but two academy stars settle shoot-out

Adam Taggart is in the box seat to win his second Isuzu UTE A-League Golden Boot after his record-breaking performance but Perth Glory were beaten 4-3 by Western United in a result that condemned them to the wooden spoon.

Taggart scored twice on Sunday to surpass Shane Smeltz (17 in 2011-12) for the outright most goals by a Perth player in a single Isuzu UTE A-League season after taking his tally to 19 in 2023-24.

The Glory captain and Socceroos forward, who was the league’s top goalscorer in 2013-14, also leapfrogged Melbourne Victory talisman Bruno Fornaroli (18) atop the Golden Boot standings with one round remaining.

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However, Taggart was unable to prevent Perth from succumbing to defeat and the wooden spoon at the hands of second-bottom Western.

Ryu Danzaki equalised in the 65th minute, Abel Walatee celebrated his maiden A-Leagues goal in just his second appearance before fellow substitute Oli Lavale enjoyed a memorable moment of his own in stoppage time.

David Williams did reduce the deficit deep into stoppage time – his 50th in the league but Western held on for maximum points.

It is Perth’s second time in three seasons that the Glory will finish bottom of the standings.

“The whole season has been really disappointing for us collectively,” Taggart told Paramount+.

“Tonight’s game just summed it up a little bit… we were leading again and crumbled when they got on top a bit. Gave away a couple of sloppy goals.

“Really, really disappointing. The match was massive for us to try to get off the bottom of the table.”

Taggart was asked where to now after another season bottom of the table and without finals football – Perth have not finished in the top six since 2019-20.

“I think they can expect some serious improvement for next season,” Taggart said.

“It hasn’t been good enough, it’s been nowhere near it. Especially at home – it’s always been a fortress for us. Even in some seasons where we weren’t doing so well, we always done well at home.

“This season has obviously fallen away. For me, that’s the hardest part to take because playing here at HBF is always something I’ve really enjoyed.

“Going into next season, we have some good footballing people involved. The owners are passionate about the game and passionate about bringing the glory days back to the club.

“I have all the confidence in the world that these are the guys to take the club forward and I’m looking forward to next season.”

Perth’s defensive woes were exposed again early at HBF Park, where Matt Grimaldi broke the offside trap and lofted a shot over Glory goalkeeper Oli Sail.

Glory slowly worked their way into the contest and they did equalise 19 minutes later – who else but Taggart? Perth outplayed Western with a well-worked team goal that saw Taggart head home John Koutroumbis’ cross.

Western nearly restored their lead moments later when Grimaldi’s fancy footwork saw him slice through Perth’s defence and pick out Michael Ruhs, though the latter fluffed his lines.

There were two good chances for both sides before half-time at HBF Park.

Stefan Colakovski sliced through Western’s defence like butter but Tom Heward-Belle denied him in the 32nd minute, while Danzaki was unmarked and free at the back of Glory’s defence but he slid his shot wide of the post.

Taggart and Glory were gifted a second goal by Western captain Tomoki Imai within two minutes of the second half starting. The Japanese defender, looking for passing options, was caught in possession inside the six-yard box and the Perth captain did not need a second invitation.

Williams had the ball in the back of the net for what he thought was his 50th A-Leagues goal, but to his dismay, it was ruled out for a foul after the hour mark.

After wasting a chance in the first half, Danzaki levelled proceedings with an inch-perfect shot into the bottom corner of the net 25 minutes from the end.

Then, Walatee – who on Tuesday night became the 11th academy prospect to debut for Western this season, was just as accurate nine minutes later to give Western the lead with his maiden A-Leagues goal in a special moment for the 20-year-old.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Lavale – in the stands as a fan when Western won the Championship in 2021-22, extended the visitors’ lead with his first ever goal in the competition.

Williams did set up a grandstand finish after finally celebrating his milestone goal.