• Christian Marchetti

Three conclusions as Adelaide secure finals football in topsy-turvy draw with Wanderers

Adelaide United have clinched a top-six finish and finals football after an exciting draw with the Western Sydney Wanderers at Coopers Stadium.

Below are our three key conclusions from the 2-2 draw.


Where's the consistency?

Tomi Juric is booked for dissent in the second half by referee Alex King. (Cameron Deans)


We'll start our wrap by getting the usual questionable and annoying refereeing decisions out of the way.


Tass Mourdoukoutas was sent off in the first half for a heavy challenge on Louis D'Arrigo, with his studs raised and both feet off the ground.


The tackle was incredibly similar to the non-decision of a red card to Jordan Elsey last weekend when the Reds played Sydney FC.


As many coaches have already said this season, if you're going to make controversial calls, at least ensure there is a level of consistency across all games.


We have to accept that given our relative status as a sport in the country and the lack of funds to educate referees, we will never have an acceptable enough standard of officiating.


However, what fans shouldn't have to accept is inconsistent decision-making from one game to the next.


It is difficult for the players to know what is and isn't a foul every week. Too many matches this season have been influenced by referees creating new interpretations of the rules on the spot.


It is a shame that despite the much-improved standard on offer in the A-League this season, we are still sitting here discussing the officiating.


All aboard the Strain train

Ryan Strain challenges for the ball with Wanderers wing-back Daniel Wilmering. (Cameron Deans)


Ryan Strain was involved in absolutely everything tonight, wasn't he?

The right-back has had a sensational season for the Reds. He should be in contention for the club's player of the year award come season's end.

From the outset in 2020-21, he has been far more adventurous and brave with the ball, having the confidence to beat players and make aggressive forward runs into the box.

That confidence was on full display with the Reds opener tonight, the fullback applying the finishing touch to a beautiful team goal.

He arrived late onto a Ben Halloran pass in behind and clipped it past Margush via a deflection from Ziggy Gordon.

The 24-year-old was unfortunate moments later when a Bruce Kamau effort ricocheted off him for an own goal for the Wanderers' equaliser.

Despite that, though, he was sensational again, and he's even eclipsed Halloran in recent weeks by becoming Adelaide's biggest attacking threat down the right side.

He's been one of the league's most improved players this season. It is a surprise that he might not be involved in the Olyroos squad when the Olympics in Tokyo comes around.


They've got there...just

Juric was a real handful for the Wanderers in the second half. (Cameron Deans)


Adelaide United will be playing finals football again in 2021.

When Carl Veart goes home tonight and knows that is now a fact, I'm sure he will be both pleased and relieved.

After a slow start, United was excellent throughout the middle part of the season. Still, this season might have ended a lot more differently without a six-game winning run throughout February and March.

Adelaide has been far too 'Jekyll and Hyde' in many of their games. They either start like a house on fire (like tonight) or are given a reality check in the first half.

This inconsistency only takes you so far. I would be amazed if Veart's side went any further than the first week of finals football.

Although the likes of Macarthur and Brisbane are also prone to inconsistency, they have far more experience to fall back on in crunch games than this Adelaide team.

That being said, Veart achieved what he would have set out to do before the season commenced, and although there have been ups and downs, his reign in the city of churches has been a success thus far.

United need performances from their experienced attacking threats if they want to ruffle any feathers in the finals.

Craig Goodwin and Ben Halloran have looked tired and out of ideas recently, but both came up with significant goal contributions when needed tonight.

Adelaide will most likely continue to be without the energetic Kusini Yengi, whose absence recently has been very noticeable.

They will need Tomi Juric to bring the same energy and intensity from the second half tonight.

The striker may not have troubled the scoresheet, but he was a menace physically for the Wanderers and fought for his team upfront as all good target men should.

With a home final also unlikely, United will be up against it to go all the way, and they might need a bit of luck on the way if they are to do so.