Adelaide United coach Carl Veart has already turned his attention to finals after his side scraped through to the knockout phase with a 2-2 draw against a ten-man Western Sydney Wanderers.
The draw on Thursday night ensured Veart’s side booked its place in the finals but their ultimate position on the table and who they will play in the first week won’t be confirmed until the end of this weekend’s games.
Veart said the Reds will rest up and watch the regular season’s last fixtures with anticipation.
“It’s important that we recover from tonight’s game,” he said.
“It took a lot out of the boys tonight. They worked extremely hard and it’s been a long season, for all the teams. We’ve all just finished a big block of games.
“It’s important that we recover and try and freshen the boys up for the first final.”
Adelaide started hard and fast and after a handful of early chances took the lead on 12 minutes when Ziggy Gordon scored an own goal off a shot from Ryan Strain.
Ironically, Strain then put one into his own net to give the Wanderers an equaliser before Graham Dorrans volleyed the visitors into the lead.
The Reds were given a lifeline when Western Sydney defender Tass Mourdoukoutas was sent off late in the first half, placing United in the perfect position to stage a fightback after the interval.
Veart introduced Tomi Juric for Al Hassan Toure and tinkered with tactics to try get the Reds back into the match.
“It was about being patient and getting the ball wide and trying to overload them in the wide areas,” Veart said.
“We made a conscious effort to play Louis (D’Arrigo) and Stefan (Mauk) wider so we can overload them in those wide areas and try and get balls in the box and get Tomi on the end of them.
“That’s why we brought Tomi on because of that physical threat and I thought he was fantastic for us in the second half.”
Veart acknowledged his side would have to do much better in the finals if they are to progress after another patchy performance.
The Reds were in control from the first whistle until conceding the own goal against the run of play, but they almost gifted the Wanderers a third goal on two separate occasions.
Thomas Aqualina hit the woodwork minutes before Craig Goodwin’s equaliser, while keeper James Delianov passed straight to Jordon Mutch in the closing minutes but managed to keep out the one-on-one chance when it seemed certain the Wanderers midfielder would score.
“We started well, then had a bad patch in the middle and finished strongly,” Veart said.
“If we’re going to go a long way in the finals we can’t allow opposition teams back in games and it’s been an Achilles heel of ours all season.
“When we’ve been on top of games and haven’t closed them out.”