Macarthur FC captain Mark Milligan says he will know within the first 20 minutes of his side’s Semi Final clash with Melbourne City whether or not the experienced Bulls are in with a chance of upsetting the Premiers to progress to the Grand Final.
Macarthur finished sixth in the regular season before shocking Central Coast Mariners in a 2-0 Elimination Final victory on Saturday, June 12 to progress to the Semi Finals, setting up a clash with City on Sunday afternoon.
Not bad for a club in its first A-League campaign, you might say. But Milligan – who is set to retire at the end of the Bulls’ Finals Series run – is not yet content with his side’s progression this season.
Speaking to Daniel Garb and Robbie Cornthwaite on the ABC Grandstand Football Podcast, Milligan outlined Macarthur’s intention to take full advantage of the experience in their squad to target a City side missing key players for the Semi Final clash.
Just as it was against the Mariners, Milligan says a fast start is of upmost importance to the Bulls as he prepares to lead the club into its first A-League Semi Final “with a lot of confidence” of stunning the heavy favourites.
Read on to hear Milligan’s full thoughts as he previews his side’s Semi Final clash with Melbourne City on the ABC Grandstand Football Podcast.
Milligan – Bulls to use experience and a fast start to trouble the Premiers
“The fact that you made the finals in your first season is already a massive tick for the club,” Cornthwaite said to Milligan.
“Finishing sixth, (beating) the Mariners who were the favourites, do you almost feel like you get a free hit in the finals now, whatever you sort of achieve from here on is sort of a bonus, and you’ve already got the pass mark?”
“That’s probably from the outside looking in,” Milligan replied.
However impressive clinching a Semi Finals berth in the club’s first A-League campaign may appear to those watching on, Milligan believes the players in his side with experience at the top level can’t help but set their expectations higher than a finish in the final four.
“We’ve got a lot of good players, we’ve got a lot of players who have been there and done that, and we hold high expectations on ourselves,” he said.
“Yes, as a new club and everything like that it’s fantastic to make the finals, but I know myself that I always want a little bit more.
“You know, Adam Federici hasn’t come home just to make up the numbers. He came home because he wanted to achieve something, he wanted to win games.
“There’s a lot of things you deal with as a new club, good things, bad things, a lot of things can be difficult so the fact we got through to the Semis, we were probably a little bit disappointed at times in our consistency and things like that, but we know what we can bring from a footballing point of view and we’re going to go to Melbourne with a lot of confidence.”
Milligan says experienced players like himself and Federici didn’t just return to Australia to make up the numbers
The Bulls are preparing for a Sunday-afternoon Semi Final clash with City after eliminating Central Coast from the Finals Series last weekend thanks to a pair of extra time goals to Charles M’Mombwa and Michael Ruhs.
The goals came in the 93rd and 121st minutes of the game, but long before the net rippled twice in additional time there were telling signs of Macarthur’s intentions throughout the opening half an hour on that night in Gosford.
By the 30-minute mark, over 50% of the game had been played in the Mariners’ defensive third. Macarthur striker Matt Debryshire had found the back of the net from an offside position in the third minute, and balls off either flank flew into the box as the visitors got on top.
Regardless of the scoreline remaining at 0-0 after the early period of dominance, the visitors had done the all-important job of silencing the home crowd and reminding the favoured side that they had a game on their hands.
Milligan says his side’s experience took care of the rest, and he hopes to see the same in the Semi Finals.
“We had a little shift in our formation I guess to what we had played against them previously. We had a good look at their last couple of games, with Newcastle especially, that was a big upset for them,” he said.
But at the end of the day, the day before and before the game we leant a lot on our experience.
“We did a lot of work on the pitch during the week but as I said in these one-off games the experience we had in the change room and on the pitch we felt if we started well and were nice and positive, and nice and aggressive, that our experience would get us through that game, and it did.
“To be totally honest with you it was just one of those games where I didn’t feel like we were going to concede. I knew with the energy and the experience we had on the pitch we would get a chance.
“Especially when we went down to ten men it was just about remaining patient and continuing to believe in ourselves. It was a good performance, probably one of our best to be honest, and we couldn’t have done it at a better time.”
City and Macarthur have met twice this season. City won the first encounter 3-0, before the two sides played out a 1-1 draw in Matchweek 18 at Campbelltown Stadium.
LAST MEETING: Macarthur FC 1-1 Melbourne City
“I think (the Semi Final against City) is a little bit similar to the game we played (against the Mariners) in terms of the way we start.
“Even the one down in Melbourne, I think it was 3-0, we started quite well, we had a couple of early chances and as you said I think there was that 15 minute period where we let them get on top, and they punished us because they’ve got quality players and are a great side.
“We did quite well against them at home, but again we didn’t control it as much as we like.
We need to start well. If we start well in that first 20, and we’re able to control proceedings, which I believe we have every ability to do, I think that will take us a long way.
They’ve got a few players, important players, missing. A few young ones coming in, and we feel like if we can get to them early, that will give us our best chance.