In-form Victory hungry to secure unlikely Premiership

Melbourne Victory’s Jeff Hopkins and Amy Jackson will seek to add another proud chapter in their already packed W-League careers against Sydney FC this evening; attempting to secure both more silverware and one of the more unlikely transitions up the table in competition history. 

Triumph over the Harboursiders tonight would secure Victory its second Premiership in club history – and second in three years – secure them a home semifinal against Canberra United and, should they triumph in that game, the right to host the W-League decider the following week. 

A remarkable scenario considering that at this time last week the club was fifth on the W-League table. 

Despite the Sky Blues sitting top and needing only a point to secure their third Premiership in club history, coach Hopkins’ side also enters the contest as arguably the form side of the competition: undefeated in seven games with just three goals conceded in that stretch. 

Sydney, conversely, was forced to watch from the sidelines for three weeks due to byes and fixture postponements following their March 6 defeat at the hands of Adelaide United before playing out a scoreless draw with Canberra United. 

Arguably, the only question mark hanging over the Navy Blue side’s recent run of form had been a lack of lethality in front of goal; finding the back of the net just once in each of their last three games. However, a 6-0 win over Perth Glory on Sunday evening has now offered Hopkins’ side a potential template to take into the Big Blue. 

“I think we need to provide [against Sydney] the quality that we provided in the front third on Sunday,” the Victory coach told JDL Media. “I think we’ve been on top in games over the past four or five weeks but in some of the games, we’ve maybe been a bit wasteful in front of goal. 

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“Maybe at times, our final pass hasn’t quite been good enough and, again, these are some of the things that we’ve talked about and we’ve looked at working on. 

“The other thing that’s been great for us is that we’ve had seven clean sheets in eleven games now. So defensively we’ve been very, very good. We’ve cut out silly mistakes and we’ve been prepared to really scramble and to be desperate at times. 

“If we can stay nice and lean at the back and not give anything away, the quality we’ve got in our front five or six, if they turn up and produce what they’re capable of producing then I’m confident that we can put in a really good performance and win the game.”

Victory’s ongoing stellar run of form began in the wake of back-to-back defeats against Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar in January, the latter of which arrived in the form of a heavy, 6-0 thrashing on the Gold Coast. 

“The 6-0 one was a tough one,” Hopkins, who has previously won two titles with Brisbane Roar, said. “We could easily have shut up shop at 3-0 down and not tried to get back in the game, but we didn’t and that kind of showed what we’re about.

“We still had a go and we ended up losing by six. 

“I don’t think we were in that bad shape, to be honest, but sometimes two results like that can affect you quite negatively and I guess this group of players didn’t let that affect them.”

According to midfield stalwart Jackson, who this season became Victory’s record games holder, the back-to-back losses provided the squad with an opportunity for contemplation and reflection, one which has fostered a greater sense of comradery and connection amongst the group. 

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“We work for each other,” Jackson told JDL Media. “Even if you’re not having a good day there’s someone next to you that will help you and guide you through it. I feel very supported at the club. Both and off the field the club has helped me a lot this year and last year. 

“I came back solely because of Jeff last year, but this year I think we’ve created an even better culture than previous years.”

Debuting for the club in 2010 and named as Victory Medallist in 2014, Jackson has been a part of a number of Big Blue games over the years, and the added dimension of the rivalry, she says, is adding further fuel to the fire ahead of this evening’s meeting between the two clubs. 

“I made my debut against Sydney,” she recounts. “So it’s always a big game and a special game for me when I play against them because it reminds me of that very first game out in Morwell.

“There’s always been that rivalry between [Melbourne and Sydney], even from the NSL days when it was Victoria Vision playing against NSW Sapphires. 

“It’s big because we’re playing for a premiership, we’re playing for a home finals series and we’re playing one of the best teams in the league. We’re motivated. 

“100%, we’re going for the double. We’re going for a premiership and a W-League championship. That’s not arrogance, just a self-belief that we have in our group and a belief in each other that we deserve and that’s what we want to give each other.”

Victory is set to be boosted for this evening’s contest by the availability of attacker Cathrine Zimmerman, with Hopkins telling JDL Media that she was capable of starting if needed. Football Ferns boss Tom Sermanni also revealed to journalists on Tuesday that Annalie Longo was confident she would be fit for the contest. 

Sydney FC, however, has been struck a blow through the loss of exciting attacker Cortnee Vine, with the youngster labelled as being an “indefinite” out after suffering a knee injury against Canberra.  

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