Macarthur aim to recover defensive steel after thrilling shoot-out

After starting the Isuzu UTE A-League season by conceding just two goals in five games, Macarthur FC head coach Ante Milicic says it will take time for his team to return to their frugal ways.

Macarthur played out a thrilling 3-3 draw with Central Coast Mariners on Thursday but have now conceded 11 goals in four games since Christmas.

Macarthur had one of the longest COVID-19-enforced breaks and have not won since December 19 last year.

Milicic said he didn’t expect his side to pick up where they left off when they made their return to competition but flagged it as reason for their defensive lapses.

“There’s a few things but ultimately the big one for us – and I think Perth and Newcastle are in the same boat – is that we had 36 days off,” he said.

“When you don’t play for that long and you have illness … we’re not where we need to be both in terms of our playing style but also physically.

“We had to have a change of formation today because (Aleksandar) Jovanovic and (Tomislav) Uskok were unavailable for different reasons so then there’s no cohesion.

“When you have that long off and then you have seven games in 26 days you’re forced to make changes. In the end, we have to deal with some situations better.

“It’s important for us to recover well, we just need to regroup and see who can back up if we do get bodies back.”

Milicic’s men are back in action when they travel to Brisbane Roar on Sunday.

Currently fifth and with games against Adelaide United, Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets to follow before the end of the month, the Bulls boss said he would continue to rotate his team with one eye on their fitness. 

“There’s one thing having 36 days off, but having 36 days off due to illness, everyone recovers differently,” he said.

“You understand straight away you won’t be back at the level. There’s concern for injuries and probably being cautious and trying to get that (balance) right is hard.

“You want your better players on the park for longer and more consistently. But if you go too far and lose one through injury two weeks out can mean five games.

“I don’t always get it right but we do try and gather as much information and it’s just game to game.”