Ageless Archie: Archie Thompson has battled back from a knee injury and could play a significant role for Melbourne Victory in the second half of the season. Photo: Tony Feder/Getty ImagesHe is 38 next birthday and has only been back for a couple of weeks, but it is already clear that Melbourne Victory veteran Archie Thompson could play a far more significant role in the champions’ title defence this season than anyone thought possible.
There were grave fears for Thompson’s career when he was carried off the AAMI Park turf after sustaining a serious medial ligament injury in Victory’s FFA Cup quarter-final win over Adelaide United in September.
The evergreen forward, who refers to himself as the Benjamin Button of the n game (a reference to the film character whose life goes in reverse, starting off old and growing younger as he lives longer) spent the first four months of the A-League season in recovery and then rehabilitation, hoping he could get back into action to continue his age-defying career.
Thompson made his return off the bench in a cameo in the Melbourne derby just before Christmas, when he came agonisingly close to finding Victory a late equaliser.
He then got 20 minutes in Victory’s disappointing home draw against Perth Glory in late December before starting in the scrappy 1-0 away win over Newcastle.
He again came off the bench in the classic 3-3 draw with Central Coast Mariners last Friday night, showing his predatory instincts were as sharp as ever when he swept home the rebound from Kosta Barbarouses shot for Victory’s second goal.
Age certainly does not weary Thompson, who has retained much of the pace and enthusiasm as well as the good technique and trickery that made him such a lethal striker in his younger days when he returned to Melbourne from Belgium to become one of the faces of the new club and league.
Of course Thompson cannot be expected to make the same sort of extraordinary goal-scoring contribution that he once did.
But with 216 appearances for Victory under his belt, and 91 goals to his credit there is not much he does not know about the quality and standard of the competition, nor what is needed to score regularly.
It is more likely that these days he will be used off the bench, especially when the sting has gone out of the game and his speed and ability to run directly at tiring defenders can bring his team rewards.
With so many youngsters – including young striker Conor Pain – away on Olyroos duty Thompson is likely to get plenty of opportunity during the next few weeks and months, both in the A-League and the Asian Champions League.
Fifth-placed Victory are still stuttering along in the league, seven points behind leaders Brisbane Roar who they play on Friday, and three behind cross-town rivals Melbourne City.
If Thompson continues to have an impact during the next few months then there is sure to be a lively debate about his playing future with the only club he has played for in the A-League.
Speculation about whether he would be offered a new deal hung over Victory’s finals campaign last season and was still causing friction in the lead-up to the championship decider itself against Sydney. Victory boss Kevin Muscat would probably settle for a similar outcome in the second half of the season if he knew Thompson could score seven or eight goals and help the team regain a top two spot on the ladder.
*Reports on Dutch websites have claimed Eredivisie club Feyenoord and German Bundesliga side Hamburg are tracking Victory’s young Olyroos defender Scott Galloway, who is with Tony Vidmar’s squad in Qatar trying to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games.
*Football Federation has confirmed the W-League semi-final featuring premiers Melbourne City will be played as a double-header at AAMI Park before City’s A-League game against Wellington Phoenix on Monday January 25.
On target: Filip Holosko scores a goal under pressure from Jets defender Nicholas Cowburn. Photo: Mark KolbeIt is the combination that’s taken four months in the making but Milos Ninkovic hopes his partnership with marquee Filip Holosko can lead Sydney FC to another derby success over Western Sydney Wanderers.
Three of Sydney’s last four goals have been created or scored by Holosko or Ninkovic in what is looming as one of the more deadly attacking combinations in the league. The two foreign recruits required time to not only forge an on-field partnership but adjust to new surroundings, different style of football and the most difficult obstacle to overcome – the hard n pitches.
Ninkovic believes his partnership is finally blossoming as the two have developed a unique bond that is punishing oppositions. It wasn’t just Ninkovic’s superb through-ball for Holosko to score Sydney’s first against Newcastle Jets on Saturday night but Holosko’s two assists for the Serbian attacking midfielder to score a brace the week before against Melbourne City that showed how instinctive this strike partnership is becoming.
“Filip is a good guy, very good football player. It’s the first season we play together but I can tell we understand each other. The last game against Melbourne City he gave me two assists now against Newcastle I give him one. At the moment we understand each other much better,” Ninkovic said.
The two players never played alongside one another before but have crossed paths in the UEFA Europa League, when Dynamo Kiev played Holosko’s Besiktas. However their bond is more ideological, according to Ninkovic, as the two value ball retention highly and place a strong emphasis on fluid football.
“Every training session, every game we know each other more. I think we need to continue like this, we need to keep the ball. Not only here but in the world, if you have the ball it’s easier for everything. In , after 14 games I watched many other games and I think it’s key if you keep the ball, if you have more times than the other team,” he said.
It’s a silver lining to the long-term injury for captain Alex Brosque as Ninkovic stepped up to a more creative role deployed as a central attacking midfielder. Since moving into a more traditional creative role in recent weeks, Ninkovic emerged as Sydney’s fulcrum in attack and credits the transition away from the left wing and into the centre of the park for his improved performances.
“When I came here I played on the left side. Many games I played in France was on the left side but I think my position is in the middle. I think because I am playing my position, I feel better,” Ninkovic said. “Last month [coach Graham Arnold] told me he wanted to put me in the middle and I said it was no problem. I think it’s better for me.”
Two goals and an assist in his last two games puts him in red-hot form leading into the Sydney Derby against Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night. Ninkovic scored the winner the last time the two clubs met in a match that was a rare spectacle for the former Dynamo Kiev man. The passion from the stands and the tension in the build-up surpasses the biggest rivalry in Ukraine between Dynamo and Shakhtar Donetsk where it’s common for fans to drink together before and after games in a mark of a friendly rivalry.
“When I was in Ukraine you play for Dynamo against Shakhtar, it’s a big derby. You can feel this but fans will go together to drink something, that’s normal in Ukraine. This [Sydney derby] is more similar to the derby in Serbia, Red Star against Partizan. Not the same but you can feel the pressure before the game,” he said.
More than $100 billion in shareholder value has been torched on the ASX this year. Photo: Andrew QuiltyComment: Share market is a slave to clumsy ChinaWhy China’s currency moves shouldn’t cause panicRBA likely to shrug off share slump: Capital EconomicsAussie dollar heading for GFC levels, analysts say
The n sharemarket plunged to a 2½ year low and dragged the year’s losses to more than $100 billion as doubts mount over China’s economy.
The S&P/ASX 200 index hit 4880 in morning trading, its lowest point since July 2013, before recovering in the afternoon to close 1.2 per cent down at 4932.
The gloomy conditions saw beleaguered miner BHP Billiton’s share price hit an 11 year low to $15.55 and the n dollar fall deeper below US70¢ to US69.28¢.
Rio Tinto fell to a seven year low, to $40.50, while ANZ Banking Group and National Bank fell to three year lows during the session.
“This is effectively a lack of confidence from markets particularly in Chinese authorities’ ability to control their currency, their housing market, their domestic heavily retail-focused equity market,” Contango Asset Management chief investment officer George Boubouras said.
“In part it can be an unrealistic expectation from western investors on what Chinese policy makers are actually doing.”
The cutting of its currency, the renminbi, from its daily fix rate against the US dollar last week sparked the market turmoil, as well as the intervention in its sharemarkets, which were closed twice in a now-defunct circuit breaker policy that halted trading after stocks fell beyond 7 per cent.
“The problem with a system steeped in government intervention is that there is a lack of faith in allowing market mechanisms to deal with quantity and price – too often planners will to try to control both,” billionaire investor Kerr Neilson said in a note to investors.
Mr Kerr said of greater concern than Chinese markets was US stocks, which he said were overvalued.
Behind the fear on China, which has sent the n sharemarket down 7 per cent in little over a week, as well as Asian bourses, Wall Street and the n dollar down, was the reality of an economy in transition, Mr Boubouras said.
It was now in the grip of a transition from a rapidly growing, yet unsustainable, manufacturing led economy, to one driven by domestic consumption, which began three years ago, he said.
“This is an important transition for any economy, it just happens to be the world’s second largest economy”.
On Monday the People’s Bank of China marginally lifted the rate at which the renminbi is fixed to the US dollar for a second day in a row, which calmed markets somewhat after last week’s 1.5 per cent cut. Its shock cut in August last year of 2 per cent from a previously stable peg sent global markets swooning and Wall Street to post its worst day in four years.
The cut was in response to a stronger US dollar, which has risen as the US moves towards higher interest rates, and sliding inflation.
Stocks stabilised around the region throughout Monday trade, but were still well down. The Hangzhou Composite Index was down more than 3 per cent in late trade, while Japan’s Nikkei was 0.4 per cent lower.
“Global markets are still in the grips of China fears, and it is uncertain whether the Chinese government can do enough to reassure global investors,” IG market analyst Angus Nicholson said.
Markets will begin to consolidate when they find reason for confidence in China, Mr Boubouras said.
“The interpretation is that large currency devaluations aren’t helpful,” he said.
“Investors should get comfortable with being uncomfortable, the volatility’s not going to go away because of the [uncertainty].”
Some brave investors will be picking that now is the bottom of the market. China’s stock market needs to grow up.
When it comes to markets, be they equities or currencies, China is like an over-sized child with enormous power and clout but not much experience. Faced with a problem it is clumsy in trying to fix it and with little sophistication and poor communication. The trouble is its oversized influence is leaving chaos in its wake on international financial markets.
Since the New Year, China has played with its currency a few times by imposing – and then abandoning – restrictions on its stock market.
All that China central is attempting to do is mature as a financial market and as an economy; to properly manage the value of its currency and to achieve orderly movement of share prices on its equity market .
Rather than being another salvo in a currency war – which is how some have characterised it – China appears more likely to be simply (and rightly) attempting to internationalise its currency.
But the suck-it-and-see approach is resulting in gyrations around the world that are so large and international investors are in turmoil – fixated on the trillions of dollars that have been wiped of share markets.
Thus the developed, mature financial markets have become hostage. As one commentator noted this week, “China needs to fit decades of capital market learning into a handful of years and there is no doubt that the road from a planned economy will be a little bumpy.”
What started out as an ugly new year week on the stock market got decidedly uglier this week and already $103 billion has been wiped off the value of the n market.
On Mondaythe People’s Bank of China moved to strengthen the currency in an attempt to shore up the market. A small glimmer of improvement in the n market at lunch time on Monday was short lived and it started to fall again on the back of another slide in the Chinese equity index as the news of its weaker than expected consumer inflation numbers hit trader screens.
By late afternoon n stocks started to pare back some of the losses but closed down 1.2 per cent.
China is now such an integral part of the world economy that the devaluation of its currency is seen as a signal of a weakening of its economy. (To be fair the fact that China is slowing is not new. It has been doing this for a couple of years as it moves to a consumer-led economy. Like the management of its financial markets – this process has not been particularly smooth.)
The latest panic has come on the back of fears that China may experience a hard landing.
Such an outcome is scary for most economies and in particular those like whose engines are the export of commodities that China soaks up.
And this explains why ‘s large producers of iron ore, like BHP BIlliton (which is now at an 11 year low), Rio Tinto and Fortescue have borne the brunt of the share price plunge. And fears of a continued slow down in China’s growth has also fed into the collapse in the oil price which was already in free fall thanks to over supply. This accounts for the share price pressure on the likes of Origin.
From a currency perspective – is seen as a proxy for China which explains why the n dollar is under pressure and has now tested levels below 70 cents.
The question that always emerges for investors in the midst of a share price rout is whether they should jump on the bandwagon and sell, hold on for the ride or double up their bets.
For those that subscribe to the China hard landing view, selling out of the stock market would be the safest outcome.
It is generally about now that the gurus of investment pop up and tell investors that the market is looking cheap and it’s time to invest. Maybe they are still sitting around the beach on deckchairs butthere are not too many out there pushing the buy-now barrow.
If one blacks out the part of the n market that is directly involved in selling commodities to China – the remainder of the economy is not in bad shape..
Macquarie Equities was one of the few institutions to go out on a limb yesterday and call an improvement in the ASX over the next 12 months.
“Despite an abundance of risks (Chinese growth and currency, US interest rates and credit markets) we think the market can finish 2016 meaningfully higher.”
It makes the point that the time to sell was when the ASX200 was 5900 not when it was 5000. In other words, those that didn’t sell then have missed the boat.
Some brave investors will be picking that now is the bottom of the market and be on the hunt for bargains.
The Brumbies paused pre-season training to pay tribute to Robbie Abel’s nephew and family. Photo: Jay Cronan Brumbies lock Sam Carter hopes he can be a leader in the 2016 Super Rugby season. Photo: Graham Tidy
Waratahs’ incredible bargain nabs Palu
They have conquered ‘s highest peak and have their sights on climbing even higher in the Super Rugby season, but the ACT Brumbies stepped away from their title ambitions to pay a touching tribute to a teammate on Monday.
The Brumbies put their pre-season preparations on hold to rally around hooker Robbie Abel and his family after the death of his nephew two weeks ago.
River Arama Parry, who was 21 months old, drowned in a backyard swimming pool in Canberra.
To pay their respects, Brumbies players gathered for a moment’s silence before their afternoon training and wore black armbands for the session.
Abel only returned to training on Monday after being granted extended leave to grieve with his family.
It was the first step in his hopes of winning his first Super Rugby cap after joining the Brumbies’ extended player squad this season.
The Brumbies are aiming high this year after making the finals in the past three seasons, but are trying to avoid getting caught up in the pre-season hype and expectations.
They could boast as many as 12 internationals in their starting XV for the opening game of the season against the Wellington Hurricanes on February 26.
Wallabies lock Sam Carter has taken on the extra responsibility of being the sole lineout caller, and hopes his World Cup experience drives him to become a better player this year.
Carter was called into the Wallabies squad as an injury replacement for Will Skelton, but did not get to play a game as charged into the World Cup final.
Failing to get any game time has done little to dampen Carter’s enthusiasm.
“A lot of guys have a lot of experience now and I’m one of those people. A few guys are looking to step up this year and make their mark on the team, and lead around the park,” Carter said.
“I’m looking to further my game in all aspects and what I want to bring in 2016 is having a bit more responsibility in that lineout role.
“I made sure I did everything possible to put myself in the position to have an opportunity [at the World Cup]. It was tough not to get a game, but I know I did everything I could.
“Everyone wants to play at the highest level and the World Cup is the pinnacle of rugby. That’s definitely my focus … I’m looking forward to the next one.”
The Brumbies will play two pre-season trials against the NSW Waratahs on February 6 and the Queensland Reds on February 12.
Carter will almost certainly be the Brumbies’ starting second-rower for the beginning of the season, with Rory Arnold, Blake Enever and Jordan Smiler battling for a chance to join him.
Andy Murray of Great Britain in a training session at Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne. Photo: Robert Prezioso Venus Williams, during a practice session, is likely to find herself among the top eight seeded women in the women’s draw. Photo: Michael Dodge
With the world’s top tennis players now checking in to city hotels, the tennis-loving public gets its chance to check out their racquet-wielding heroes’ form ahead of the n Open which starts on January 18.
Among those already checked in and warming up for the forecast hot conditions are Czech Tomas Berdych, Spaniard Feliciano Lopez and American sisters Venus and Serena Williams.
Venus, who was on court at Melbourne Park on Monday, is likely to find herself among the top eight seeded women in the women’s draw after number nine ranked Lucie Safarova pulled out of the Open with a bacterial infection.
Looking in ominous form, Scottish world number two Andy Murray had a hit-out with a view on one of Crown’s tennis courts before crossing the Yarra to test out the surface at Rod Laver Arena on Monday afternoon.
Coached by Amelie Mauresmo, the four-time n Open runner up has already said he wouldn’t hesitate to leave if wife Kim Sears went into labour early with the couple’s first child, due in February.
Taking to Rod Laver Arena ahead of Andy Murray on Monday was Asia’s top-ranking male player, Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Despite the background noise of drilling as workers prepared the stadium’s lighting and overhead screens, the world number eight practised with n Rameez Junaid.
While most of the top players travel with a hitting partner, some also like to tailor their practice sessions by pairing up with particular types of players – be it a left hander, a baseliner or a big server. The pairings are courtesy of staff at the tournament’s player services desk, who handle requests in the lead-up to the tournament and during the fortnight of competition.
While Melbourne-based Junaid is better known as a doubles player and is currently ranked in the top 100 in doubles, the 34-year-old kept up with Nishikori, with both men keenly watched by their respective coaches.
Meanwhile, the patient fans who waited at Melbourne airport on Sunday night to welcome world number one and defending n Open champion Novak Djokovic to town were rewarded with selfies and autographs from the popular Serb, who has already racked up a win in 2016 after taking out the Qatar Open.
That title, his 60th overall at tour-level, places the 28-year-old in elite company as he becomes just the 10th player in the Open Era to reach the milestone.
Two-time n Open champion Victoria Azarenka announced her arrival on Twitter on Monday, fresh from her victory over Germany’s Angelique Kerber at the Brisbane International. Now ranked 16, the win marked her first title in two years and given the injury sweeping the upper echelons of women’s tennis Azarenka is up there with Serena Williams as a contender for the 2016 title.
WHO IS IN TOWN:
The NSW Environment Protection Authority has issued a $15,000 fine toJET Group Pty Ltd, for failing to remediate a contaminated wood stockpile at its Toronto premises.
The authority is also taking action against the companyfor unsatisfactory environmental practices associated with the running of the site, which trades as Oz Landscape Supplies.
“The EPA first became aware that JET Group was operating a composting and resource recovery facility at its Toronto premises without an environment protection licence in November 2013,”EPA acting manager regional manager compliance Cate Woodssaid.
“We’ve since issued a clean up notice, a prevention notice and two variations of the prevention notice to the company.”
Under the most recent conditions of the Prevention Notice, the companywas requiredto remove a contaminated wood stockpile.
“JET Group has failed to comply with the deadline despite being provided with time extensions by the EPA,” Ms Woodssaid.
“Due to the location of the wood stockpile on the property, it could cause a pollution incident because chemicals, such as copper chrome arsenate, are able to leach into ground and surface water.Additionally the timber could be processed into mulch and applied to customers gardens, exposing risks to human health and wider spread of contamination.”
Ms Woods said remediation of the contaminated stockpile is still required to be completed.
“The site is not licensed by the EPA and so it does not have all the environmental controls that the EPA would usually require to prevent this kind of offence in the first place.”
“This is a reminder to all waste companies to make sure their depots are properly licensed and have strong environmental practices in place.”
Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions.
The EPA must also take a range of factors into account before delivering a proportionate regulatory response, including the degree of environmental harm, whether or not there are any real or potential health impacts, if the action of the offender was deliberate, compliance history, public interest and best environmental outcomes.
FRUSTRATION: Ben Kantarovski after Sydney’s second goal. Picture: Getty ImagesTHE statistics make grim reading.
Six games without a goal. Ten games without a win. A joint share of one A-League record, and two more looming large on the horizon.
But if Newcastle Jets fans had formed the opinion that things could hardly be worse, perhaps they should cast their minds back to the corresponding stage of last season.
In their second game of 2015, Newcastle suffered a club-record 7-0 hammering from Adelaide, beforecoach Phil Stubbins and a player reportedly almost came to blows. Within dayscontroversial owner Nathan Tinkler moved to sack five players and three members of the coaching staff.
A once-proud club was officially a basket case.
Twelve months on, Stubbins’ successor, Scott Miller, must be starting to realise what a tough gig he has inherited.Miller’s dream start of three wins fromhis first four games is fast fading from memory.Since their memorable 3-2 comeback against Melbourne City on October 30, the Jets have suffered six defeats and four draws.
Their most recent goal was a distant 559 minutes ago, by Ben Kantarovski against Brisbane on November 28.
EMOTIONAL CONTRAST: Ali Abbas celebrates a goal against his former Newcastle teamates. Picture: Getty Images
Theyare only the second team in A-League history to go six games without a goal, and are in danger of surpassing the recordstretch of 606 minutes set by now-defunct New Zealand Knights in season two of the A-League.
If they don’t beat Wellington at Hunter Stadium on Sunday, they will equal the Newcastle club-record winless stretch of 11 games.
THAT HURTS: Jason Hoffman reflects on Newcastle’s sixth game without a goal. Picture: Getty Images
Newcastle’s tallyof nine goals in 14 games is six fewer than their nearest rivals, and a remarkable 26 fewer than the A-League’s most potent team, Melbourne City.The fewest goals scored by any team in an A-League seasonwas 13 by the ill-fated Knights in 2006-07, but at that time the competition format was only 21 regular-season rounds.
Meanwhile, Newcastle have slid to eighth on the points table, more than a win adrift of the top six with 13 rounds to play. They desperately need to import some firepower in the January transfer window if they hope to avoid missing the finals for the sixth straight season.
Their dilemma was encapsulated ina comment from Foxtel analyst Robbie Slater about Jets striker Milos Trifunovic, who is Newcastle’s leading scorerthis season.
“For me, he looks like he doesn’t have any belief that he’s going toscore a goal, Trifunovic,” Slater said.
“And that goes for the rest of the Newcastle players.”
Bob Oatley: Setting his own course
Businessman, winemaker and yachtsman Bob Oatley AO has died of illness, aged 87.
Mr Oatley was the owner of Wild Oats XI and died on Sunday morning, according to sources close to the family.
Wild Oates XI won the iconic Sydney-to-Hobart race for the eighth time in 10 years in 2014, but tragically had to pull out of the Boxing Day race due to damage to the mainsail caused by bad weather.
Forbes magazine last year estimated his net worth to be $910 million, while he was listed at number 49 on last year’s BRW Rich List, with an estimated wealth of $1 billion.
While yachting is where he made his name, it was in wine that Oatley made his fortune, via the Rosemount Estates wine company. The multi-millionaire entrepreneur founded Rosemount Estate winery in 1969 and expanded it as a private company over three decades.
Rosemount went global, becoming the second-biggest selling n wine brand in the US and ‘s largest family owned winery. From its meagre Hunter Valley beginnings, the estate fetched an extraordinary $1.4 billion in 2001 when Oatley sold it to Treasury Wine Estates.
Two years later the Oatley family bought Hamilton Island for $200 million, pouring large amounts of money into re-developing the Whitsunday resort into a world-renowned luxury island destination.
Oatley’s two passions were wine and sailing. He pursued his interest in sailing as the owner of the highly successful Wild Oats yacht and through hosting an annual race week at Hamilton Island.
In 2006 the Oatley family returned to the wine business, opening Robert Oatley Vineyards which operated out of NSW and Western , producing boutique brands including Wild Oats and the Robert Oatley signature series.
He also owned retirement homes and a clifftop villa in Sardinia, Italy.
Oatley planned to send a team to compete in the America’s Cup, before pulling out in 2014, citing cost.
“His tilt at leading the next n entry in the America’s Cup was scuttled when he withdrew after being unable to negotiate rule changes with defending champion and fellow billionaire Larry Ellison that would have seen the price of entry slashed,” BRW magazine reported.
In 2014 Oatley was named an Officer of the Order of (AO) for “distinguished service to the n wine and tourism industries [and] to the sport of yacht racing”.
Last November, Yachting honoured Oatley with a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to sailing.
Oatley made his first fortune in the 1950s and 60s trading coffee and cocoa beans from Papua New Guinea.
His convict ancestor, James Oatley, was ‘s first clockmaker, according to Forbes magazine.
Mr Oatley is survived by his wife Valerie and three children Sandy, Ian and Ros.
Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic might still be smarting over the disallowed goal that cost his side victory against Melbourne City on Saturday night but he is confident his team will rebound to scale new heights in the coming months.
The match at AAMI Park was locked at 2-2 when a quickly taken free-kick was received by Mark Bridge, who duly put the ball past City keeper Thomas Sorensen.
But referee Jarred Gillett disallowed the goal, saying he wrongly re-started play before City captain Patrick Kisnorbo was able to resume his position in defence after being spoken to by the official. Furious Wanderers players and coaching staff protested but the decision remained.
With only a few minutes left in regulation time, Aaron Mooy was able to find Harry Novillo, who created space before bending a superb strike past Andrew Redmayne, sealing the three points for City and sending the Wanderers to second on the A-League ladder, below Brisbane Roar on goal difference.
But with a home Sydney derby this Saturday night – and with only three points between the Wanderers and Sky Blues – Popovic is sure his team will re-group and begin its charge to regain top spot.
“We can certainly improve a lot more, there’s no doubt about that. When we started the season, in the first three games, we didn’t win a game. Since then, we didn’t lose until now and it’s been a really quick rise in terms of our play,” he said. “You’d have to envisage that the cohesion and fluency will only get better come the second half of the season and I’m expecting to see our football improve. Hopefully that will show in the results.”
While the Wanderers dominated for large patches of play, their failure to finish key chances again proved to be critical. However, Popovic maintained that the positive of his team creating the chances outweighed the negative of bad finishing.
“You want to take your chances, but you’re delighted you can create them, regardless of how the game is going,” he said. “We conceded three very good goals from two very good individuals. We didn’t get carved open but I thought we played a really big part in a very good game.”
Surprisingly, Popovic opted against starting Romeo Castelen, arguably the Wanderers’ best player this season. However, the Dutchman made a suitable impression off the bench and is likely to stay there for the derby.
“He was fantastic. That’s what you hope for from your subs, that they come on an make an impact,” Popovic said. “He played a big part in the equaliser and he had a great chance with a one-on-one against the goalkeeper.”
The Wanderers have not been linked with much activity during the January transfer window but Popovic said it was still possible something could happen.
“We’re not actively seeking anything but you have to keep your eye out and just see what is out there,” he said. “If there is something we need or something comes available, then we’ll consider it.”