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Monday, March 5, 2012
ESPNsoccernet: March 8, 1:05 AM UK
A-League tops and flops

Rob Brooks

Former Gold Coast owner Clive Palmer again stole the headlines this week. Palmer lost his legal battle with Football Federation Australia to maintain control of the club and in the meantime set up 'Football Australia', a think-tank aimed at lobbying the game's governing body. The mining magnate's bizarre behaviour aside, the A-League is heating up with just three weeks until the end of the regular season. The Newcastle Jets appear bound for the finals following their win in Melbourne, while Adelaide failed at home to Perth. Top-two sides Central Coast and Brisbane were held to draws, and Wellington heaped more woe on the Gold Coast.


The revival of the Newcastle Jets heading into the finals will have a number of the competition's top sides fearful of Gary van Egmond's men. Newcastle were clinical in their defeat of Melbourne Victory on Saturday evening, capitalising on some soft defending, particularly in the first half. The three points puts a gap between the Jets and seventh-placed Sydney FC as a picture of what is to come in the finals becomes marginally clearer. A win over Gold Coast next week would be the Jets' sixth in their past seven matches, and would all but secure their passage to the post-season.


Adelaide United again failed to deliver as they were comprehensively defeated at home by Perth Glory. It's been a horror season for the Reds and their apparent lack of drive and motivation is most worrying. Aside from flashes of individual brilliance, the players have never looked like a cohesive team and so was the story last Friday night. Adelaide's midfield were bossed on their own soil and their talented frontline of Dario Vidosic and Sergio van Dijk simply do not see enough of the ball during the course of the 90 minutes. The Reds' focus will now shift to Tashkent for the AFC Champions League, where this talented side will have the opportunity to salvage some pride.


Key for Newcastle in their recent run of form has been Francis Jeffers. Though the 'fox in the box' may not have written his name on the scoresheet, Jeffers continues to create numerous chances for his team-mates. The Englishman opened up the Victory time and again, with young Jacob Pepper the ultimate recipient of the fine lead-up work. Jeffers' vision and experience in holding up the ball is evidently providing the vital component for the possession game the Jets have been looking for.


Fabian Barbiero had a brain snap of epic proportions against Perth. With his side 2-0 down, Barbiero came onto the field as a substitute in order to for Adelaide to claw their way back into the match. Instead, the young forward used his 13-minute spell to clash with Perth's Dean Heffernan while Adelaide were on the attack. The incident occured at least 20 yards away from the ball, and while the full details of the exchange between the players will not be made public, it does not befit a professional footballer to let his team-mates and supporters down so badly.


Ricki Herbert gets the nod again after guiding Wellington to victory over Gold Coast United. The win takes the Phoenix back into third spot on the table, as a crucial home final looms as a likely scenario for the New Zealanders. A tricky trip to Melbourne to face the Heart awaits Wellington next week, but a positive result - while fourth-placed Perth take on Central Coast - could prove to be an important moment in the context of the season.


Melbourne Victory's Jim Magilton will have a difficult time getting his charges to regroup after recording another loss at the weekend. The Victory have now won just one of their past nine and appear certain to miss out on the finals as they sit eight points adrift of the Jets in sixth. More disturbing for Magilton will be the sight of veteran Matthew Kemp storming off down the tunnel after being substituted in the first half. At a delicate time of the season, Magilton will need his entire squad pulling together rather than stropping off if they are to get anything out of their final three games.


Mitch Nichols opened the scoring in fine style for Brisbane against the Heart with a neat strike after picking up a loose ball. However, the Young Socceroo limped off with a groin injury that will see him miss the Roar's AFC Champions League clash against FC Tokyo.


Veteran Clint Bolton's heroic last-gasp penalty save against the Roar kept the Heart in fifth place and simultaneously allowed the Central Coast to stay on top of the table.

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