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.

Do you agree with our assessments made in the return of our January report cards?

Semester Summary: A sluggish start to the season has picked up in the back half. Only one convincing win was produced from Melbourne City’s first six games with two more wins coming from shaky winners in the death minutes.

Analysing their last month makes for rosier reading. Three wins from their last four games – a loss to league-leaders Brisbane Roar splitting the pack – sets the side up for a Melbourne Derby and then a meeting with the top two on the ladder before finals.

City’s biggest deficiency has been their ability to put teams to the sword. In round three they went nuts against Newcastle in a 5-2 win but all other results up until last week have been either frustrating games where points were dropped, or wins with a discontent aftertaste.

Of their first 13 goals between rounds one and nine, only four of them came in the first half. This trend was bucked last week with a 3-0 win against Perth at home where each goal was scored before half-time – something which must become a trend for City as the season reaches its climax. Trying to close out games with late nail-biting winners won’t hold up in the finals.

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Areas of Excellence: With the swagger of talent and experience on show in the squad it’s not a surprise that the team is filled with strong-willed players who have the ability to eke out wins. The W-League is becoming harder to win so showing resilience to scratch out results when the game is in the balance is an area City have excelled in.

Of the six wins so far, three of them have been won in the 80th minute or later. Late goals are becoming a trademark of the side. City simply know how to outlast their opponents.

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Around the park, City’s dominance in midfield has been a highlight. Yukari Kinga’s addition in midfield has added streaks of talent and poise to the control room alongside the evergreen Jess Fishlock. Amy Jackson anchoring midfield and the mid-season signing of Aivi Luik means the midfield is in good shape for the back of the season, contributing to the side’s 80% passing accuracy, a figure way out ahead of Brisbane’s 74% in second place.

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Areas in need of improvement: Where Melbourne City have excelled is also where they perhaps need to improve. Winning late – although it display mental fortitude and resilience to last 90 minutes – isn’t the most ideal method to record victories and won’t hold water in the finals.

Those three late wins have all been against teams in the bottom four and of the four other sides currently in the top five, City have only defeated the Newcastle Jets.

Melbourne City have conceded multiple goals against Brisbane Roar, Sydney FC and Perth Glory. They defeated the latter most recently in a barnstorming first half home fixture, but with Newcastle (second) and Brisbane (first) to play in the final two weeks, City must iron out their wrinkles now.

Conversion in front of goal is part of this. Melbourne City are jets at creating opportunities, but are propeller planes at finishing them. This isn’t to say their goal tally is poor – at 16 goals scored they’re nestled comfortably in the middle of the competition – but for the personnel available to them and relative to the chances they’re creating, goals should be coming in more frequently.

City lead the overall league shot tally for the season with 165, nearly 20 ahead of Brisbane in second (146) and a further 15 ahead of Sydney (131)

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Top students: Jess Fishlock’s contribution to the team this season has been invaluable again. Five goals, bucket-loads of class and foresight in midfield and a fantastic leader, Fishlock isn’t just a “top student” but also a “good teacher” to the team around her.

Two of the more enjoyable and refreshing players to watch have been Ashley Hatch and Rebekah Stott. Hatch, on loan from North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League, has been a revelation on the wings with her ventures forward, an ability to cut inside across the box and take chances from distance.

Kiwi Stott has impressed greatly at right-back. On paper at the start of the season she may have been picked as the weak link in a back four featuring Matilda’s Kennedy and Steph Catley and American import Lauren Barnes, yet she’s held her own and even scored a late winner in November’s Melbourne Derby.

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Class clown: It’s hard to pick a definitive “clown”. Lydia Williams and Alannah Kennedy certainly had some clown moments in the first half of the season in defence, but if coach Patrick Kisnorbo was to single out one player to give a kick in the pants to, Kyah Simon might be a good idea.

Simon, a noted scorer through her W-League and Matildas career (23 in 76 caps for the national team, 40 in 77 in the league before coming to Melbourne) scored in the opening two fixtures of the season but has gone goalless in the last six games.

The 26-year-old played out wide at the start of the season but has been placed at the top of the formation since the halfway mark of the season and is yet to score from there.

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Grade: B+

Outlook: The positives are obvious for a team that has experienced successes they have in their W-League infancy, but as the competition catches up and the quality of the league continues to increase, Melbourne City must tidy up their performances and make sure they’re burying teams early in games. There’s still improvement in the team – to draw from Graham Arnold – they’re going at 70%. It must be high 90s by the final week of the season and into finals.

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Football and Aussie rules commentator, writer and radio host/producer from Melbourne.