Draw snaps Glory losing run

Perth Glory have picked up their first point under interim coach Ian Ferguson, snapping a seven-game losing streak in an entertaining 0-0 draw with Melbourne Heart on Wednesday night.

Perth Glory have picked up their first point under interim coach Ian Ferguson, snapping a seven-game losing streak in an entertaining 0-0 draw with Melbourne Heart on Wednesday night.

On a hot Perth evening at nib Stadium – one that felt more like February than November – Ferguson sent out a youthful Glory side that dominated the opening half without finding the back of the net.

But Melbourne responded after the break, lifting their intensity as both sides traded blows in an end-to-end finish, Mile Sterjovski missing Perth’s best opportunity in the 69th minute.

Heart, though, created the better chances at the death, the Victorians going achingly close to winning their second consecutive away game when Eli Babalj’s powerful injury-time header cannoned off the upright.

Instead Heart will have to be content with a fifth game without loss that sees them maintain sixth on the Hyundai A-League table, within striking distance of the top four.

But for the eighth-placed Glory, a loss in this encounter would have been a cruel blow after a much-improved effort following their 5-0 thrashing by Central Coast last Saturday.

“I wouldn’t say job done,” said Ferguson after the match.

“I would just say it was a far better performance. It was a more positive performance and the young kids we brought in tonight, I thought done fantastic.”

Heart coach John van ‘t Schip felt it was a deserved draw after his side’s poor first half.

“I think the result at the end we can be happy,” van ‘t Schip said.

“Maybe with the chances we had we deserve more, but the first half was not good and the second half was still decent.”

Coming into the game under a mountain of pressure, Ferguson reacted savagely to the heavy Mariners’ loss, making five changes to his starting line-up, with no one’s position being safe, not even Robbie Fowler’s.

After a lean few weeks, Fowler was dropped back to the bench and replaced by Michael Baird in the first XI.

Ferguson also brought in four players, led by skipper Jacob Burns, who was returning from suspension. But the most significant statement he made was injecting youth into the side as Brent Griffiths, Howard Fondyke and Tommy Amphlett all started as Naum Sekulovski, Steve McGarry, Branko Jelic and Ryan Pearson made way.

The Heart, on the other hand, made just one change as Simon Colosimo came in for suspended former Glory player Wayne Srhoj in a midfield role.

It was Ferguson’s changes which had the greater immediate impact, though, as Perth displayed the enthusiasm and verve so lacking over the past month.

In the 12th minute a rapid-fire counter-attack saw the Glory force a save from Heart stopper Clint Bolton, Andy Todd racing downfield to cross for Amphlett, whose scuffed shot was just held by Bolton diving to his right.

Two minutes later a last-ditch tackle by Heart’s Michael Beauchamp prevented Baird shooting from a good position before Sterjovski fired wide seconds later.

Without injured strikers Alex Terra and John Aloisi, Melbourne’s best chances were coming from the set pieces as tall timber Beauchamp and Nick Kalmar threatened from Aziz Behich corners without finding the back of the net.

As Burns and Fondyke controlled the midfield battle, Amphlett terrorised the Heart defence with his runs down the right, the youngster in his first start looking dangerous every time he touched the ball.

With some stern half-time words from van ‘t Schip ringing in their ears, Heart lifted a gear in the second half, Kalmar almost capitalising on a rare error by Perth’s Scott Neville seven minutes after the break, before Glory stopper Tando Velaphi cleared the danger.

Some impressive work by Amphlett in the 57th minute saw the youngster win possession, his cross into the area laid off by Todd Howarth to Fondyke who shot wide, before Baird then sent a header over the bar from Griffith’s incisive cross.

Heart responded as Kalmar fired over before Sterjovski missed the Glory’s best chance 21 minutes from time, the former Qantas Socceroo blazing over from three metres.

In the 76th minute, the impressive Kalmar saw his glancing header bounce narrowly wide of the upright before second-half substitute Babalj used his pace to get into a good position, only for Todd to clear the danger.

A minute into added time, Babalj’s cracking header ricocheted off the post, while the former Glory youngster was then denied by a smart Velaphi save as Perth held on for a deserved and much-needed point.

Perth Glory 0
Melbourne Heart 0
Crowd: 5745 at nib Stadium, Perth