Super Smeltz fires Perth Glory to victory

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It was the Shane Smeltz Show at NIB Stadium tonight as Perth Glory ended the regular season on a high with a 4-2 win over a hapless Melbourne Victory. 

The Kiwi striker netted four times, including three in the second half, to move ahead of Archie Thompson as the Hyundai A-League’s all time top goalscorer.

Injuries forced Glory into putting out a makeshift side that contained six players under the age of 23, all of whom hail from West Australia, but the youngsters all played their part in the win.

After a rather lacklustre opening quarter of an hour, Harry Kewell registered the first shot on goal but his fierce drive from inside the area was well parried by Danny Vukovic.

At the other end, Andrezinho came close with a curling free kick which Tando Velaphi did well to tip onto the post.

The first goal arrived just seconds later when a defence splitting pass from Fabio released Carlos Hernandez and the Costa Rican finished calmly low past Vukovic.

The lead didn’t last long however as a poor header from Matthew Foschini allowed Andrezinho to pounce on the ball ahead of Velaphi and his cross was nodded home by Shane Smeltz.

Glory came close to taking the lead for the first time when Smeltz fed Billy Mehmet but the big striker shot just wide of the left post.

Deep into injury time at the end of the half, Victory snatched their second of the game as a cleared free kick found full back Fabio whose effort on goal was half blocked, allowing Mark Milligan to smash a shot high into the roof of the net.

The second half had barely kicked off when Glory equalised, again through the combination of Smeltz and Andrezinho with the former nodding home the latter’s free kick.

Just after the hour mark the floodgates opened as Smeltz made a mockery of a Victory defence that has been found wanting all season.

He completed his hattrick from the penalty spot after Milligan was adjudged to have brought down Mehmet in the area, before smashing a right footed drive past Velaphi for his fourth after a neat turn in the area.

With the game all but over at that point, a frustrated Victory struggled to create many chances and Hernandez blazed their best opportunity over the bar from 12 yards.

Glory can now look forward to next weekend’s home final which is sure to attract a bigger attendance than tonight’s 9724.

The result means that Glory will finish in third spot unless Wellington Phoenix beat the Central Coast Mariners by more than three goals tomorrow.

How they lined up

Glory lost Bas Van den Brink due to a training ground injury sustained late in the week so Scott Neville came into the side for his first Hyundai A-League match of 2012. With Dean Heffernan suspended and Liam Miller, Jacob Burns and Josh Mitchell all ruled out, 17 year old Brandon O’Neill was given his first start in the middle of the park. Fellow youngsters Jesse Makarounas and Sam Mitchinson were included on the bench.

Melbourne Victory kept faith with the side that dismantled Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park last week as Archie Thompson hoped to rediscover his goal scoring form. James Jaggo impressed in that win while former Glory youth player Julius Davies was amongst the substitutes.

The kids are alright

Yes Ian Ferguson had no choice in having to play his young players but all stood up when required and put in an excellent showing. Brandon O’Neill was not far off being a contender for man of the match while Jesse Makarounas showed flashes of his exciting ability having replaced Steve McGarry at the half time break.

O’Neill picked up a knock and was replaced by 19 year old Sam Mitchinson, another product of the successful NTC side run by respected coach Kenny Lowe. With Scott Neville returning from a long absence through injury and Josh Risdon established as a key figure in the starting eleven, there is certainly some talent emerging in WA.

Smeltz shines with four

‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’ goes the saying and Shane Smeltz did plenty to prove that theory as he found the back of the net four times; three of which came in a productive second half.

Smeltz has now overtaken Archie Thompson as the A-League’s highest ever goalscorer with 62 goals and his stunning performance was of no surprise to his manager.

“Strikers can go through these barren spells where they miss chances or don’t score goals or they’re not playing well. But you can always rely on Smeltzy,” said Ian Ferguson afterwards.

“He’s that type of player that will bounce back, shut the critics up put the goals in the net, and that’s what he did tonight.

“He looked very sharp, and he looked really sharp during the week.”

The superb display of finishing is certainly encouraging as Glory head into the finals series next weekend.

Where next for Victory?

Harry Kewell’s demeanor in the post match press conference was one of frustration given Victory’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of, ehh, victory.

“The first half was an even contest,” he said.

“We got in front and we know how difficult it is to get in front over here. We did the hard work but in the second half we weren’t at the races.

“They stepped up their game, we slacked off and they punished us.”

The Socceroos star also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a loan move away from the club during the offseason.

“We’ll see [about a loan move]. I feel like I’ve come off a hard season; it hasn’t been easy coming back here and playing,” he said.

“It’s a very good standard and it’s tough so I feel like I need a rest for next season.”

Victory boss Jim Magilton agreed with his captain’s assessment of the game.

“Our ineptitude shown through at times and our concentration levels cost us dearly,” he said.

The Northern Irishman wouldn’t be drawn on his future in Australia and said that he will sit down with the board in the coming days to discuss the situation.

“I’ve really really enjoyed it [being in Australia],” he said.

“The lads have applied themselves terrifically well in training and unfortunately we just haven’t had results.

“We can’t hide behind some poor performances but I’ve really enjoyed it and, again, I’ve been really surprised by the quality.

“The league is growing each season and it’s getting better and better, the standard of the players coming into the competition is increasing and that can only bode well for it.”

Glory are “in it to win it”

So says Ian Ferguson and with the prospect of their first two finals games being at home, they are certainly a threat to the top two.

Perth Glory: 1. Danny Vukovic, 4. Billy Mehmet, 5. Steve Pantelidis, 9. Shane Smeltz, 12. Scott Neville, 13. Travis Dodd, 14. Steven McGarry, 17. Todd Howarth, 19. Joshua Risdon, 26. Brandon O’Neill, 27. Andrezinho.

Subs: 20. Neil Young, 15. Tommy Amphlett, 18. Jesse Makarounas, 29. Sam Mitchinson.

Melbourne Victory: 1. Tando Velaphi, 2. Matthew Foschini, 3. Fabio, 5. Mark Milligan, 10. Archie Thompson, 13. Diogo Ferreira, 16. Carlos Hernandez, 17. James Jaggo, 19. Isaka Cernak, 22. Harry Kewell, 28. Ubay Luzardo.

Subs: 21. Ante Covic, 4. Peter Franjic, 6. Leigh Broxham, 29. Julius Davies.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

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