Isuzu UTE A-League R14 Talking Points: Coach explains why ‘fan favourite’ won’t start despite 11-game streak

These are the key talking points from Round 14 in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

One of the stars of the competition returned from a seven-week injury absence and took just minutes to remind the league of his quality in a huge boost to the league leaders.

Newcastle head coach Robbie Stanton explained why one of the club’s fan favourites continues to feature only from the bench despite a promising 11-game streak, and an in-form Mariner discussed his future and the prospect of an overseas move.

Plus, one of the veterans of the league came up with yet another important stoppage-time goal for Perth Glory, leaving Macarthur captain Ulises Dávila to lament his side’s inability to hold onto a lead.

Saturday Wrap: Mariners excite, returning star fires ‘Nix to the top
Sunday Wrap: Glory snatch a point, Wellington win and Matilda returns in Derby victory

Ominous words from returning star as ‘Nix regain one of league’s best for silverware push

He’s back!

In just 20 second-half minutes, Wellington Phoenix striker Oskar Zawada dealt the rest of the Isuzu UTE A-League a bruising reminder of his quality.

His 87th-minute goal decided a 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets on Saturday afternoon, and sent the Phoenix to the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League table.

Zawada had been sidelined since Round 7 with a thigh contusion but showed no sign of rustiness in front of goal; post-game, he told Paramount+ there’s work to be done before he’s up to full fitness – and with five goals in seven games this season, his reintroduction into the fray spells danger to Wellington’s rivals in pursuit of silverware this season.

“I didn’t have many training (sessions) with the ball,” Zawada said.

“I skipped so many days (of rehabilitation) as possible to come (back) earlier, so I don’t feel 100%. But I think from game to game I’ll feel better.

“The most important thing is that when I will get a chance I will score it.

“It’s all about scoring goals, so I’m happy with that and of course I think my conditioning will be better, the feeling on the pitch, that’s normal. You can’t be great after seven weeks off but I will try to work hard as I always do, and then I will try to give my best to the team.”

Jets coach explains why ‘fan favourite’ needs ‘to do a lot more if he wants to start’

In 2023-24, Newcastle Jets youngster Archie Goodwin has made more appearances in a single season than ever before – but his head coach Robbie Stanton continues to take a cautious approach to easing the injury-riddled teenager into league action. 

There’s ample reason for Jets fans to get excited about the 19-year-old and what he can produce in the Hunter; before this season, Goodwin had scored five goals in little more than 600 minutes of Isuzu UTE A-League action and is shaping as one of the brightest young strikers in Australian football.

But Goodwin hasn’t started any of his 11 appearances this season; any onlookers hoping to see him in Stanton’s starting XI any time soon, don’t hold your breath as Stanton continues to ease Goodwin into senior football.

“I think Archie, for me it’s all been about just managing his minutes,” Stanton said after the 2-1 defeat to Wellington.

“But he’s going to have to do a lot more if he wants to start. He’s still got a lot of growing to do as a player, in my opinion. 

“I know he’s a fan favourite, I understand that, but in the end, he’s still 19 years of age and he’s got a lot of development to do. But what I’m seeing, first and foremost, is let’s fix his body so he can grow and get better.

“I believe we’re in a really good space with that. That’s been my focus this year, but also we can start to improve him a little bit more. he’s got a few things to learn about what he needs to do in a game, but that’s difficult when you come on as well.

“I’m pretty happy with him. I’m just happy that we have him on the pitch, and I can bring him on at any time now up to 45 minutes plus, which we’re doing.

“I think he’s going to get better. I think that’s 11 or 12 games straight now (in the side), that was impossible the last two or three years so we’ve solved that problem I believe, we just wait to keep making him resilient and stronger, and the rest will come.”

Goodwin’s 11-consecutive appearances for the Jets is the most he’s accrued in succession throughout his three-and-a-half seasons in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Dramatic 1v1 between veteran and young star leads to fascinating post-game scenes

MATCH REPORT: City surge into the top six as Antonis stunner & goalkeeping heroics lead to win over Reds

Adelaide United fell to a 1-0 defeat to Melbourne City on Thursday night – but the Reds could have come away from AAMI Park with a point if not for City keeper Jamie Young’s superb work to deny young gun Nestory Irankunda a late equaliser in a dramatic one-on-one.

Irankunda was foiled by Young in the 79th minute of a clash decided by City midfielder Terry Antonis’ fifth-minute stunner; post-game, Young put an arm around Irankunda in an admirable moment between adversaries, as the experienced A-Leagues veteran consoled the Bayern Munich-bound teenager and undoubtedly shared some advice and encouragement for the future.

Watch the moment here, and re-live all the action from City’s slender win over the Reds.

Big Blue ends all square after controversial dismissal

Melbourne Victory’s 1-1 draw with Sydney FC in Friday night’s Big Blue was hotly contested – and not without controversy.

The Sky Blues took an early lead through Jordan Courtney-Perkins before Zinedine Machach struck back in the 17th minute; a blistering start to the game was overshadowed when Patrick Wood was sent off for the Sky Blues following a VAR review in the 36th minute.

Wood’s send-off dominated the post-game agenda, after the Sky Blues held on for a hard-earned point on the road.

MATCH REPORT: 10-man Sydney frustrate unbeaten Victory in controversial draw
REACTION: ‘It’s a decision that ruined the game’ – Coaches and pundits have their say following controversial call in Big Blue

Nisbet ‘put on the spot’ to address future plans amid end-of-season speculation

Central Coast Mariners star Josh Nisbet says he would “jump at” the chance to play for an overseas club – but only if the opportunity is right.

The 24-year-old midfielder put together yet another impressive performance as the Mariners defeated Brisbane Roar 2-0 on Saturday night.

Nisbet has been one of the standout players in the Isuzu UTE A-League this season, and with his Mariners contract set to run down at the end of the 2023-24 campaign, Paramount+ panellist Luke Wilkshire took the opportunity to spark the conversation around his future in the aftermath of Saturday’s win over Brisbane.

“You’re having a fantastic season,” said Wilkinson. “I understand your contract is running up at the end of the year. I’m going to put you on the spot: where does your future lie, and what are your thoughts about that?”

“Look, at the moment I’m concentrating on playing,” Nisbet replied. “I’m just trying to play as good as I can, the best as I can for the Mairners and that’s it.”

But when pressed to share his thoughts on the potential of an overseas move, Nisbet’s diplomacy made way for a fascinating take on the quality of overseas offers for Australian players, and the importance of waiting for the right opportunity to arise before taking the plunge at a foreign club.

“I think my size doesn’t help me when it comes to people watching and looking overseas, but it has to be the right opportunity,” he said.

“I’m not going to jump at something that could make me (end up) back in Australia in one or two years. So if the right opportunity does come up, I’ll definitely jump at it.”

Dávila laments another late breakdown as Bulls leave more points on the table

Despite putting in another Player of the Match performance, Macarthur captain Ulises Dávila was once again left disappointed by his side’s failure to secure all three points in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

David Williams’ 93rd minute strike saw Perth Glory leave Campbelltown Sports Stadium with a point despite the home side having twice twice taken the lead and Dávila revealed his frustration at full time.

“To be honest it’s really disappointing,” said Dávila. “I think we gave many points away in the last five minutes so yeah, disappointing.

“We have to control better the games. We cannot still be giving away so many points in the final minutes so that’s the disappointing part but we need to keep going and go game by game.”

The Mexican had earlier finished off one of the team goals of the season to make it 1-0, taking his tally for the campaign to seven goals but the draw for Macarthur means they’ve now won just once in their last eight games.

Furthermore, Williams’ late leveller means the bulls have now dropped seven points due to goals conceded in stoppage time this season and the draw with Perth prevented them from moving three points clear of sixth-placed Melbourne City.

“I don’t feel like they were playing with the same intensity that they normally do,” remarked Head Coach Mile Sterjovski in his post-match press conference.

“Especially last week, I thought last week was a great performance with intensity, with the way we move the ball. I just thought we were a bit lacklustre today.

“That was one of the biggest messages before the match, to be consistent. I don’t think we’ve gone back-to-back wins since Round Two or Three so consistency is major for us and we’re looking to bring that back.”

Moreover, Sterjovski’s squad will now have to get used to juggling domestic and continental football once again as the Bulls resume their AFC Cup campaign in February.

Macarthur now face the league’s top three sides in their next three fixtures with games against the Wanderers (H), Melbourne Victory (A) and Wellington Phoenix (A) all on the agenda next month whilst their knockout tie against Malaysian side Sabah FC in the AFC Cup will be sandwiched in between the games with Victory and the ‘Nix.