Interim Head Coach Jess Fishlock feels Melbourne City is hitting peak form at exactly the right time ahead of Sunday’s blockbuster Westfield W-League Semi Final against Canberra United.
City ensured its title defence continued for at least another week after booking a Semi-Final date against Canberra with an impressive 2-0 win over the Newcastle Jets, in what was a winner-takes-all clash in Coffs Harbour.
The result followed on from a dominant 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar in the penultimate round of the season, and City’s midfield dynamo believes her side is brimming with confidence heading into Sunday’s clash at GIO Stadium.
“The last few weeks we’ve really got our handle back and desire back,” she said.
“The girls have done really well to get the results we’ve got, but to play the way we’ve played and have the performances we’ve had in the last couple of weeks, it has been really positive.
“We had a blip, there’s no doubt about that. But what the girls have done to turn that around has been brilliant.
“We’re confident, we’re happy now, which is a good way to be when you go into finals.”
There’s no question about it, City’s W-League title defence has been far more challenging in comparison to last season’s historic Premiership and Championship double.
A first ever W-League defeat at the hands of weekend opponents Canberra in Round 6 presided over a six-match winless run, despite City playing well enough to take home three points on many of those outings.
Throw in a coaching re-shuffle which saw Fishlock take on additional responsibility as Interim Head Coach and the addition of Patrick Kisnorbo as Assistant Coach, and a period of uncertainty meant securing a finals berth was no guarantee.
Fishlock described the difficult patch as a fork in the road moment, but couldn’t be happier with the manner in which her team responded to the challenge.
“We weren’t’ getting great results during that time so it could have gone one way or the other,” she said. “We could have imploded as a group, or got together and started moving in a positive way.”
“We got our staff together and Patrick Kisnorbo has obviously come in. What’s changed has changed, but [the reshuffle] actually had a positive effect on the group, because we started from scratch.
“Credit to the girls. They could have easily switched off and let the season fade away from them, but they didn’t and you have to give them credit for that.”
If playing in a second consecutive Grand Final wasn’t enough motivation, a win on Sunday will provide City with an opportunity to become the first team to successfully defend its Westfield W-League Championship.
Standing in the way is Canberra, who were crowned Premiers on the final day of the season after crushing Melbourne Victory 5-1 and seeing Sydney FC falter against Adelaide United.
The ledger is square with both sides registering a win apiece during the regular season; a fact Fishlock renders a distant memory heading into the cut-throat environment of finals football.
“I think finals are a different game all together. There are so many emotions that go in finals that league games themselves can pretty much be forgotten,” she said.
“That’s what we’re going for. We beat [Canberra], they beat us at home, so we’re not focusing on much on past results. We’re firmly focused on moving forward and on Sunday.”