It’s the time of the year when clubs look towards the home stretch of the season and The Football Sack critiques each club’s progress so far.

Semester Summary: Heading into the new season Adelaide finally had a platform to springboard from having won the final three matches of their 2016/17 campaign.

These confident victories – particularly an 8-2 spanking of Western Sydney – had incoming coach Ivan Karlovic dreaming of the club’s inaugural finals appearance.

The squad also set high expectations.

Resigning Danielle Colaprico and Katie Naughton as well as securing lethal striker Makenzy Doniak were all shrewd investments as were the signatures of two South Australian centre-backs in Emma Checker and Jenna McCormick.

Speaking with Checker weeks before the season began, the fresh Reds captain detailed the fierce resolve her teammates showed to secure that maiden finals appearance.

“Within ourselves and as a group we’ve set the bar high and we’re not going to settle for anything less.

“We’re going to succeed.”

Unfortunately for the franchise success has seldom been seen in the City of Churches this season.

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Barring a clinical match-winning hat-trick from Doniak against the Glory and hopeful performances at home against Sydney and Newcastle, it has been a thoroughly underwhelming campaign for the bottom-placed United.

The side possesses the leakiest back-line, having also failed to secure a clean sheet.

The Reds have also taken the fewest shots (75), nearly half the amount of the No.1 ranked Brisbane (146).

All of a sudden the hopeful finish to 2016/17 looks a false dawn, with a rebuild perhaps again on the cards.

Areas of Excellence: In terms of collective performance, not much.

Adelaide’s wing play has looked particularly threatening at times and has created chances aplenty for the Reds.

But we haven’t seen enough of it.

Whether that is due to a lack of confidence in the back three or the frequent tinkering of formation by Karlovic is anyone’s guess.

However, it would definitely provide some spark to see Georgia Campagnale and Emily Hodgson pressing higher up the pitch.

Set pieces have also been a continuous scoring threat for the youthful Reds in an attack that has at times looked rather disjointed.

Areas in Need of Improvement: If I had a dollar for every position that could use improvement, I would have the price of a concession ticket to a United W-League match [$10!].

Only Sarah Willacy and Eliza Campbell can be excused here, as they have performed an admirable job in goals.

The engine room has also been serviceable but lapses in structure have hurt the side and allowed opponents to put the foot down whilst also preventing the Reds from grabbing matches by the scruff of the neck.

Adelaide’s attacking brigade has failed to gel even in spite of recruiting Travis Dodd some weeks back in order to correct the delicate situation.

That’s not to say individually the players are at fault, but the attacking cohesion so desperately craved by Karlovic has been missing for considerable chunks of the season.

But in their defence, individual errors have plagued the side.

As a unit, the backline has actually held its own for long periods, only let down by defensive errors that have often been the unfortunate difference.

Top Students: Ivan Karlovic has definitely dug out a couple of diamonds in a rough season.

Alex Chidiac continued the meteoric rise that saw the 18-year-old capped by Matildas coach Alen Stajcic, whilst recruiting Naughton and Colaprico for another season has paid dividends. They’ve provided immense maturity and tactical nous for the young squad.

Class Clown: Without being exceedingly harsh, Adriana Jones has seriously struggled to match, let alone surpass her output from last season in what was a breakout year for the striker.

After playing a starring role in the 3-1 victory against Perth, Jones suffered a severe dip in form that has seen her relegated to the bench in the past month.

Grade: D

Outlook: If Adelaide fails to take anything substantial from these final matches, this season will undoubtedly be seen as a huge backward step after the promise of last season. The Reds have seemingly sunk back into the dark ages, and if the last decade is any indicator, it’s a near-impossible mire to escape.

Feature image creditKen Carter
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Adelaide-based writer, content creator and story-teller. Like one of those determined ants that require a second flick.