ALW Match Preview: Finals push has to start now says Epakis

Head Coach Alex Epakis is treating every game like a Final as Glory start the second half of the season by travelling to Ballarat to tackle league leaders Western United on Saturday (kick-off at 12pm WST).

The women in purple currently sit nine points off the Finals spots, albeit with two games in hand on fourth-placed Melbourne Victory.

And while there is plenty of football still to be played, Epakis is adamant that his side need to start their charge now.

View his full pre-match media conference HERE.

“We’re not exactly where we want to be at this point in time,” he said.

“We have games in hand and we’re very clear on what the schedule looks like going forward for the rest of the season.

“I’ve really stressed the idea that in each game, we’re playing to get points and we’re going all-in to every game.

“We don’t want to walk away with any what-ifs or buts.

“It’s making sure that we view it almost as a Final in itself and we need to step up a gear.

“We’re motivated to do that and the team has looked very, very strong after a couple of weeks of strong training.

“We know that there’s the potential for that really strong run-in home and it’s something that I’m pushing, but at the end of the day, we have to deliver and we need to do it consistently and as often as possible.”

Beginning that push for Finals at the expense of a Western United side which has lost only once all season will be no easy task, but the Head Coach believes his charges can take heart from the performance they produced when the two sides met at Macedonia Park on New Year’s Day.

“It’s a tough assignment because they’ve had a very good first half of the season,” he said, “but we haven’t played for a number of weeks now, so we have a lot of energy to put out into a really strong performance.

“It’s exciting for us.

“I think the results they’ve had since then [the New Year’s Day win over Glory] showed that it was a really good performance from us.

“We went up twice against them and to walk away with nothing in a home fixture is something that is still a sour point for me.

“So we’re going to take confidence from that.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but the performance we put out that day is good enough to compete with the teams at the top and having not played for the last couple of weeks, we have a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm and we can just unleash that.”

In terms of early team news, Epakis confirmed that new recruit Hannah Blake will come straight into the matchday squad.

“Hannah joined us after a national team camp with New Zealand when they had their fixtures against the US,” he said.

“She’s in good shape, she’s looked very good in training and she’ll be a part of the squad this week.

“We’ll be tactical with how we utilise her.

“She’s got some strengths that will help the team and we’ll just be mindful of when we include her into the game.”

Rylee Baisden and Ella Mastrantonio, meanwhile, will both miss the game due to injury and suspension respectively, but while acknowledging that the duo will be missed, Epakis is confident that their absence will not derail his side’s bid to topple the high-flying hosts.

“When you lose Ella and Rylee, they are two core players,” he said.

“They were two big recruits in the off-season and they bring a level of experience, especially in those defining moments when you need that experience to really shine through.

“However, in saying that, what I’ve seen in the last few weeks, players have acknowledged that whilst they’ve been out and are potentially out for the upcoming fixtures and players have really stepped up.

“We have to ensure that while we acknowledge that they’re not there, there are opportunities for players to put their hands up and add value to what we’re doing.”

Since claiming their comeback victory at Macedonia Park, United have recorded a further four wins, keeping four clean sheets in the process, along with a 2-1 defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers.

Hannah Keane continues to lead their frontline to great effect, taking her tally of goals for the season to nine and also contributing three assists, while at the other end, US ‘keeper Hillary Beall has kept five clean sheets.

Match Details

Liberty A-League 2022/23 Season Round 13

Western United v Perth Glory

Morshead Park Stadium, Ballarat

Saturday 4 February 2023

Kick-off: 12pm WST

Western United squad: 
1. Alyssa DALL’OSTE (gk), 4. Jaclyn SAWICKI, 5. Aimee MEDWIN, 7. Francesca IERMANO, 9. Hannah KEANE, 10. Kahli JOHNSON, 11. Emma ROBERS, 13. Danielle STEER, 14. Natasha DAKIC, 15. Adriana TARANTO, 16. Melissa TARANTO, 18. Aleksandra SINCLAIR, 19. Tyla Jay VLAJNIC, 20. Sydney CUMMINGS, 21. Hillary BEALL (gk), 22. Alana CERNE, 23. Angie BEARD, 24. Julia SARDO 

Ins: 7. Francesca IERMANO, 24. Julia SARDO (returns from injury) 

Outs: Nil 

Unavailable: 2. Stacey PAPADOPOULOS (injured), 6. Chloe LOGARZO (injured), 12. Harriet Withers (injured)

Perth Glory squad: 1.Morgan AQUINO (gk), 3.Kim CARROLL, 4.Natasha RIGBY (c), 6.Tijan MCKENNA, 7.Liz ANTON, 8.Hana LOWRY, 9.Demi KOULIZAKIS, 10.Susan PHONSONGKHAM, 12.Sofia SAKALIS, 13.Sarah CAIN, 14.Hannah BLAKE, 15.Cyera HINTZEN, 16.Isabella WALLHEAD, 17.Abbey GREEN, 18.Sadie LAWRENCE, 19.Izzy FOLETTA, 20.Sarah LANGMAN (gk), 22.Claudia MIHOCIC, 23.Alana JANCEVSKI, 42.Gabriella COLEMAN

Ins: 6.Tijan MCKENNA, 14.Hannah BLAKE, 16.Isabella WALLHEAD, 22.Claudia MIHOCIC, 42.Gabriella COLEMAN 


Unavailable: 11.Rylee BAISDEN (injured), 21.Ella MASTRANTONIO (suspended), 24.Milan HAMMOND (injured)