Heart tip pace to hurt A-League's Mariners

February 24, 2012
By Sam Lienert

Five days after lowly Gold Coast almost toppled A-League leaders Central Coast with speed, Melbourne Heart aim to complete the job on Sunday at AAMI Park.

Heart midfielder Matt Thompson said the top-placed Mariners looked vulnerable when the Gold Coast youngsters used their pace.

He said Melbourne had the speed to find a few more holes.

"They ran them around a bit, which is something Central Coast normally do to other teams," Thompson said.

"The Mariners have a fantastic midfield, but the Gold Coast seemed to get on top of them with their speed.

"We'd like to think that we've got a few quick players ourselves, so hopefully we can do something similar to them."

Two players central to that plan will be returning Olyroos Mate Dugandzic and Aziz Behich, who only arrived home on Friday, after being part of the national under-23 side's failed Olympic qualifying campaign.

Thompson said it was a good time to meet the Mariners, given their short break between games and unconvincing 3-3 draw with bottom-placed Gold Coast.

But as much as Heart hope to penetrate Central Coast's defence, Thompson said ensuring Melbourne's own defence was operating soundly was the key leading up to the finals.

The veteran said that was pivotal to the five-game winning streak they enjoyed earlier this season.

That was followed by an eight-game winless run, before a breakthrough 1-0 triumph over Gold Coast last weekend.

"We have the strike power to cause a lot of teams some damage, but when you're conceding a goal or two a game it makes it hard," Thompson said.

"Those games we were winning, we were only winning by one, but defensively we were good.

"If we get back to that, we're going to be a hard team to beat."

Thompson said while last round's win was not particularly impressive, it was a vital confidence-booster as the Heart tried to shore up their hold on a top-six berth.

"We had to start winning and obviously against the Gold Coast it was the perfect opportunity to do so," he said.