John Aloisi says his team simply must win against Central Coast Mariners.John Aloisi suspects the A-League hasn’t seen the last of his former Socceroos teammate Paul Okon.
But for now, the Brisbane Roar coach is focused on what Okon has left behind – a plucky Central Coast team that threatens to derail their finals charge.
The Roar simply must beat the Mariners at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night to keep their top-six hopes alive.
The only problem is Aloisi isn’t quite sure what to expect from them under caretaker Wayne O’Sullivan.
On the evidence of their 2-1 defeat to Sydney FC last week, the Irishman appears to have ditched the all-out attacking style Okon had preached for two seasons in Gosford.
In its place is a five-man defence, a counter-attacking mentality and a barrage of long balls over the top to fleet-footed attackers like Connor Pain, Andrew Hoole and Trent Buhagiar.
It seemed to trouble the Sky Blues, who only won courtesy of an injury-time goal from veteran Matt Simon.
“Five at the back was an interesting one because that’s really changing it up from what Paolo did,” Aloisi told AAP.
“They can still play, and players who can play, but they don’t really play out at all costs.
“On goal kicks they went long every time. They didn’t take risks.
“If they do sit off a little bit, we can break them down, or if they do press us, we can play through them. We’ve practiced both.”
Okon told Fox Sports this week he left the Mariners because his vision for the club’s future was “very different” to that of owner Mike Charlesworth.
One of the key agitators against Football Federation in the sport’s governance gridlock, Charlesworth only provides the bare minimum of funding to the club and is understood to be keen to sell his majority share.
Aloisi tipped Okon would be back coaching in the A-League again soon.
“I think Paolo did a great job,” he said.
“I know the results weren’t always there, but you could see the type of football he was trying to play.
“You could see they were a very well-coached side.
“It’s disappointing, and a pity about the circumstances, but I’m pretty sure he won’t be too long out of the game.”
The in-form Brett Holman is nursing a groin niggle but aside from that, Brisbane head into the clash with a settled line-up and as clear and overwhelming favourites.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Brisbane Roar are undefeated in their last 11 games against Central Coast (W9, D2), keeping five clean sheets in that time.
* The Mariners have won just one of their last 15 games outside NSW (D3, L11), failing to score a first-half goal in five of their last six such fixtures.
* Massimo Maccarone has been directly involved in five of Brisbane Roar’s last eight goals on home turf (4 goals, 1 assist).