NPL Preview: Greater consistency remains the focus for Academy First Team

PGFC Academy Head Coach John Walmsley is looking for his young charges to be better for longer as they head into Saturday’s NPL WA showdown with Armadale SC at Alfred Skeet Reserve (kick-off at 3pm).

Glory will travel south looking to bounce back from consecutive home defeats at the hands of Floreat Athena and Balcatta Etna, results which have seen them slip down what remains an incredibly congested NPL table.

And the Head Coach feels that they are very capable of doing just that as they move into the second half of the 2023 campaign.

“We’ve got to be good in all moments,” he said.

“If a team is playing direct and we don’t stop the service and deal with the second balls all the time, there’s always a chance that a team will get something from it.

“In the Balcatta game, we actually dealt with that threat quite well for large periods of the game, but there were crucial moments in that game that didn’t go our way.

“Performance-wise, I thought we kept the ball quite well in the last two games and created chances, but we haven’t been as clinical.

“That’s football and sometimes you need to have more consistency in front of goal to control the momentum of the game.

“It’s nothing overly concerning; we just need to be more consistent in doing the things we need to do more often.

“We’ve shown that we can beat anyone on our day, but it’s about being really consistent with the approach.”

Walmsley went on to acknowledge that the very nature of the PGFC Academy can make on-field consistency tricky to find.

“The challenge that we have is that there is so much player movement within the group,” he said.

“So you need to keep that identity and a clear way of playing in a squad which will always change with players going to national teams, moving up to A-League and coming in after doing well for the 18s and 20s.

“It’s not a squad of 20 players, it’s a group of potentially 30 to 40, but that’s the exciting thing for us as coaches; how can we get the message across and stay consistent with the approach despite the turnover in players.”

While results may have been indifferent in recent weeks, Walmsley has been impressed by a number of the younger players who have broken into the First Team picture this season.

“James Overy and Robert Cook, two 07s, have been two of the biggest ones,” he said.

“I think Robbie was playing Under-16s last season, so to come in and play in the First Team and perform like he did in the first half [of the season] was outstanding.

“James Overy is the same.

“He played 18s last year and has come in and not just been coping, he’s been having a real impact, creating chances and scoring goals and showing a really good work rate off the ball.

“Khoa Ngo is another one.

“He had his chance against Sorrento and came on, scored and impacted the game.

“Royie Rahamim has impacted games as well.”

In terms of Saturday’s clash with Armadale, Glory will again be without key quartet Daniel Bennie, Andriano Lebib, Giovanni De Abreu and Corey Sutherland, but the Head Coach is delighted that they will instead be flying the flag for Australia at the AFC U-17 Asian Cup in Thailand.

“It’s a fantastic achievement to not only go over and be a part of the squad for selection, but to then get over the line and be chosen,” he said.

“It shows the talent you need to get in the door and also the character, drive and personality they’ve got to stay in there and make an impact in the games.

“I’m looking forward to watching them play over the next couple of weeks and hopefully they can do really well and qualify for the World Cup as well.”

Also missing from the Glory side this weekend will be in-form midfielder Laat Mathiang, who is suspended, but Walmsley does not have too many other concerns ahead of what he is expecting to be a lively encounter with an Armadale side which has won six and lost six thus far this term.

“What I like about Armadale is that they’ve got loads of energy,” he said.

“They’re aggressive, they’re front foot and they want to impact the game and get the ball into the box as soon as possible.

“I’m expecting more of the same from them.

“They signed some good players at the start of the season and I’m expecting an entertaining game with both sides wanting to get in behind and score goals.

“It should be a good game for the spectators.

“We don’t have too many injuries within the squad.

“There are actually some selection headaches this week, which is a good position to be in.”

The First Team game will be preceded by the Under-18s, at 11am and the Under-20s, at 1pm.

Do get along to support the lads if you can!

(picture courtesy of Tom McCarthy)