Macarthur FC head coach Ante Milicic says both Matt Derbyshire and Markel Susaeta will be given “every opportunity” to feature in the Semi Finals should the hamstrung duo put their hands up to play against Melbourne City this weekend.
Speaking to Simon Hill and Alex Brosque on the latest instalment of SEN’s ‘The Global Game, Milicic said the two Bulls stars have earned the right to feature in the Semi Final should they convince his experienced medical staff they are both right to go for the do-or-die clash with the Premiers.
With a Grand Final spot on the line there’s no room for passengers in Milicic’s side, but the Bulls boss has full faith in the young players ready to fill the boots of his two veterans should they not pull up in time for the Sunday-afternoon fixture.
Read on as Milicic gives Hill and Brosque his thoughts before Macarthur’s first crack at making the title decider.
Milicic keeping a keen eye on Derbyshire, Susaeta fitness concerns
A magnificent Elimination Final win over Central Coast Mariners may have come at a cost for Macarthur FC.
Derbyshire left the field in the 87th minute, and was seen feeling for his hamstring as he trudged off the field. The game progressed into an extra 30 minutes with scores tied at 0-0 before the ten-man Bulls scored twice through Charles M’Mombwa and Michael Ruhs to seal a shock win in Gosford and progress to the Semi Finals.
But in amongst the excitement, Susaeta was the second Macarthur star to leave the park hampered by injury with 109 minutes on the clock.
The two players have been integral to the Bulls’ attacking impetus this season.
“They both had to leave the field,” Milicic told Hill and Brosque on The Global Game.
“They’ve been excellent for us, particularly the composure that they bring in the final third.
“You look at our last game of the season against Wellington (a 3-0 loss) where we had a lot of youth, a lot of energy but we missed a little bit of that composure, and the’ve been excellent for us.
“They came off (against the Mariners) with these modern words with footballers these days: soreness, stiffness, tightness, whatever it is.
“But either way their hamstrings weren’t in the condition where they felt they could carry on, so we came to the stage where we took them off.
“It’s an eight-day turnaround. The players have earned the right if they’re available and they put their hand up to play, we’ll give them every opportunity.
Hopefully these things improve with every day that goes by.
“I’ve got a great medical staff, experienced medical staff so I’m sure these two in particular will want to be up for the game on Sunday.”
Can the Bulls cope without either Susaeta or Derbyshire in the Semi Finals?
In M’Mombwa (23) and Ruhs (18), Milicic has a pair of young forwards who showed their eagerness to make their mark on the big stage in Macarthur’s Elimination Final win. Seeing M’Mombwa and Ruhs score the decisive goals at Central Coast Stadium was a welcoming sight for the Bulls boss after the pair started in Macarthur’s dismal 3-0 loss to the Phoenix in the last Matchweek of the regular season.
Milicic says he can appreciate the importance of that deflating result now, with the likes of Ruhs, M’Mombwa, Jake Hollman and Antonis Martis all receiving important minutes in the absence of the likes of Derbyshire, Susaeta, Beñat Etxebarria and Denis Genreau who will miss the remainder of the campaign on Socceroos duty.
“It’s funny, as a coach you always look at things differently,” he said.
“I look at the week before when we played Wellington, and we knew we were assured of (Elimination) Finals football, so we rested Beñat, we rested Susaeta, we rested Derbyshire and gave people like Moudi Najjar and Michael Ruhs a start, we gave Charles a start.
“I’m thinking now, by giving them those match minutes in those games, yes we were on the wrong end of a result and a performance against Wellington, but did that play a role in what he did against Central Coast?
“By giving these kids the opportunities, it hurts you on the night but the boys grew from that, they get better and now I look at the belief that’s around not only Ruhs but a few of those other ones, Jake Hollman coming in as well and winning that tackle to assist Ruhs was massive, and he’s another one that was playing NPL last year.
“We’re fortunate we’ve got a really good group of professionals at our club, the senior boys and they’ve helped the young boys so much.”
GOAL: M’Mombwa – Ten-men Bulls take the lead in extra time
“Milicic added: “…we always felt that we’ve got a lot of quality in the change-room, we’ve got a lot of winners.
“With no disrespect to the occasion the other night (in Gosford), we’ve got a core group of players that have played in bigger games than what we played in the other night.
The belief is huge, and in a one-off game we back ourselves against anyone.
“The confidence is good, the experience is good, but at the same time we forget to mention a couple of our young boys that have really accelerated their professionalism and performance.
“On the weekend we talked a lot about the experience that got us through the game – well the young boys have really shown that they can play at this level.
“I was delighted for Charles and Ruhs. You have to remember where they were playing at this time last year, to now play away from home in a Semi Final. Our experienced boys have really guided them through this period.”