Byline Banter: Finals ahoy!

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Byline Banter is back following a brief hiatus to recover from the football coma brought on by the Asian Cup.

The race for the toilet seat is well and truly back on with the Perth Glory out in front being chased by a pack of four rabid desperados trying to close the gap.

Can the Victory, Adelaide, Wellington or Sydney FC pose a real threat to the men from the West? And who’s going to be the best of the rest and sneak into the 6th and final playoff spot? Byline Banter may answer these or other questions using words beginning with B!

Brilliance
The third and final Sydney derby didn’t leave fans in the lurch when it came to action and drama. Sydney FC get the bragging rights this year winning two of the three matches and drawing the other much to the dismay of the RBB. Also providing cheeky FC fans with the chance to ask if the ACL Champions League trophy is still keeping them warm at night.

Western Sydney Wanderers did well to get back in the match from three goals down. But the Sky Blues showed their mettle and demonstrated why the two teams are at the opposite ends of the table this year by grinding out what could end up being a very important victory. The win comes on the back of a victory over the Central Coast Mariners and is the second match in a run of five fixtures where they play the bottom five teams. If they want to challenge Perth for the top spot, now is the time.

A sensational crowd of 19,484 fans packed into Parramatta Stadium last Saturday for the derby. But even combined with 19,128 that attended the other Wanderland derby, Western Sydney can’t match the 41,213 fans that piled in the FC hosted derby at ANZ Stadium. Full credit still goes to the Wanderers faithful though as their supporter base may well be the most passionate in the league and provide an incredible atmosphere for football. Imagine what they could do with a bigger stadium.

Honourable mentions
– Brisbane Roar’s fight back against the Glory after looking out of the match.
– Perth’s return fight back to get a point, that’s what title contenders need to be able to do.
– The Glory v Roar match in general, great match that was completely overshadowed (deservedly) by the derby.

Buys
Isn’t it funny how much a single player can do to help turn a team’s season around? Newcastle Jets boss Phil Stumbly, sorry Stubbins, has indeed stumbled across a remarkable find in Lee Ki-je. The South Korean was named Man of the Match in the Jets past two home matches and delighted a Novocastrian crowd that has had little to celebrate this season.

The 23-year-old has sparked something of a mini turnaround at Hunter Stadium with his three starts coinciding with a run three unbeaten matches. But while it appears the Newcastle boss still isn’t sure where his optimum position is after trying him on the left wing and at left back, Ki-je has so far excelled at every task assigned to him.

No doubt fans and management alike will be hoping for the more of the same this weekend as the Jets face the horrifying task of hosting a buoyant Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.

Honourable mentions
– Kerem Bulut, scored two goals in a losing effort for the Wanderers. Can’t ask from much more than that from a new guy.
– Enver Alivodic also looked pretty lively for the Jets, Stubbins will be hoping the Serbian can settle in fast.

Bottom
Byline Banter is going out on a limb and calling who’s going to finish in last spot this season: Central Coast Mariners. That’s right, if you’re a Wanderers or Jets supporter breathe a sigh of relief and take the rest of the day off.

Western Sydney have the benefit of having two games in hand on their cellar dwelling rivals and as much as people have been saying it all year, they should be able to push off the bottom of the table. Need more evidence, think about the Wanderers performance against Sydney compared to either that of the Jets or the Mariners against each other.

Newcastle on the other hand are simply trying to not finish last, that’s basically what they’ve been doing all season and that’s exactly why they won’t finish last. Up until now the Central Coast has been harbouring hopes of getting into the playoffs, but the last play-off spot should go to Melbourne City or failing that, Brisbane Roar. Players will keep on saying they’re focused on making the final series but they’ll now be looking over their shoulders if they weren’t already before.

Fighting for the finals and fighting to stay off the bottom are completely different games. When you’re struggling on the bottom and things start going against you, particularly dramas like late goals and incorrect calls that settle games, it’s much harder to pick yourself up and go again. Luckily for the Jets they’ve had plenty of practice at that this season and the Mariners will need to learn to do it quickly or they’ll be left with their pants down.

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