Can winning Reds keep their eye on the prize?

It’s crunch time in the A-League men’s competition and Spiro Karanikos-Mimis asks: are the Reds serious championship contenders?

United's Mohamed Toure after scoring during the win against Perth Glory on March 5. Photo: AAP/Richard Wainwright

United's Mohamed Toure after scoring during the win against Perth Glory on March 5. Photo: AAP/Richard Wainwright

I don’t know about you, but it feels like the Reds have been going through the motions this season.

I can’t say that I have been overly impressed with their performances, but at the same time, results would indicate that they’re doing more than okay.

In fact, they’ve only lost twice in the last 10 games.

It’s hard to get a firm grasp on where the Reds are – and not just because their results are better than their general play. The ladder is slightly deceptive. The Reds are currently in third spot, but all the teams below them (except Sydney FC) have games in hand.

This means that United could find itself clinging on to a finals berth once everyone plays their catch-up games.

However, there is a saying in football: it’s better to have the points on the board than games in hand.

So, as we turn the corner into the final third of the regular season, that question we all want answered comes to the fore again: is Adelaide United a chance?

Well, if their form and ladder position are taken on face value, they have to be. But the other reality is that the Reds can dish up some bang average football (as we saw in the poor loss against MacArthur a few weeks ago).

A lot would need to go right for United to win the Championship from here. But it’s not impossible.

The Reds have made a habit of late wins or draws this season and seem to be consistently running out games better than their opposition.

This bodes well for finals as those games are generally tight affairs and opponents will know that Adelaide is a threat right until the end.

The other thing that the Reds have found is a striker. Hiroshi Ibusuki has been a blessing. Four goals in nine games is a good return. But it’s not just his goals which have been so vital; his ability to bring the ball to ground and link attacks has been a delight to watch. Should Zach Clough find his feet, they will be a handful for any team in the run-in. Clough is a talented player: Nottingham Forrest spent £2.5 million on him in 2017.

Whoever owns the Reds come the end of the season should be ensuring they are doing whatever they can to keep them both beyond their deals, which expire at the end of the current season.

One player I’m desperate to see more of is Mohamed Toure.

I have to say that I’m really confused as to why he keeps finding himself as a “super-sub” when it’s clear he’s in the best 11 at United.

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In fact, I reckon he’s good enough to propel the Reds to the Championship.

After his goalscoring cameo again Perth on Sunday, Veart was asked if Toure would get a start soon. His answers left me perplexed.

Veart reminded everyone that Toure was still only 17 and as such did not have the conditioning required to play a full 90 minutes at senior level. He then suggested if he was a tiring opposition defender, seeing Toure enter the fray with 20 to 30 minutes to go would make him want to ask to be substituted.

Okay but you could drive a truck through his logic.

Why? Well, how do you expect Toure to get the conditioning he requires to play senior football if he’s not playing enough minutes? Anyone who’s played the game can tell you that you can do all the running in the world, but nothing comes close to match fitness.

The other issue I have with what Veart said is that, since the departure of Ben Halloren, Adelaide has often started games with Bernado Oliveira at right-wing, who is…wait for it…17-years-old.

I would have much preferred Veart to call it as it is: he simply does not see Toure as a starter. He rarely started him last term and he’s rarely started him this term. Ibusuki, Craig Goodwin, Lachlan Brook and Oliveira are ahead of him in the pecking order.

I believe he’s good enough to be starting now and the fact that Adelaide is getting results with Toure coming on as a sub doesn’t necessarily mean that starting him on the bench every week is the right approach. Has anyone at United considered that things could be going better if he was playing 60 to 90 minutes every week?

Either way, Toure’s form deserves to be recognised and he should be starting against Newcastle on Sunday, even if Brook returns to the team after recovering from COVID-19.

Sunday’s match may not exactly whet the appetite, but the result will play a vital role in where the Reds finish this season.

The Jets are one of the teams below Adelaide who are trying desperately to gain ground on the top six. Following Wednesday’s loss to Wellington, they are two games and nine points behind Adelaide. If Adelaide wants to give themselves some oxygen between the chasing pack, three points this Sunday is a must.

Lastly, a quick note on the A-League Women’s Semi-Final against Melbourne Victory that is also being played on Sunday.

It would mean the world to those athletes if Reds’ fans got out to support them in their first-ever final (and especially against the old enemy).

A win for the Reds will mean they will play the loser of the first semi-final between Sydney and Melbourne City for a grand final spot.

If there was ever a time to get out and support the women, this is it.

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