Five things we learned from A-League round 14

Sydney FC have been the dominant team in recent derby clashes with Western Sydney Wanderers. Nothing we saw on the weekend suggests that is going to change when the two teams come to grips again on Saturday.

Andrew Nabbout

Newcastle Jets' Andrew Nabbout, left, has become a shock leading contender for the Johnny Warren Medal. Source: Getty Images

1. Wanderers can't win the Sydney derby

Sydney FC have got their own problems, with Seb Ryall injured in the 3-2 win over Central Coast Mariners and Matt Jurman's departure to accept an offer in Asia, but they pale into insignificance compared to the difficulties the Wanderers face.

They're in trouble at the front and the back, with Brendon Santalab still suspended for the game at Allianz Stadium on top of Kerem Bulut's release after not performing well and Lachlan Scott still a rookie. Jaushua Sotirio started up front in the 1-0 loss to Melbourne City.

Central defender Aritz Borda will also be missing from the Western Sydney side after he was red-carded against City.

Wanderers haven't won any of their last five games this season (three draws, two losses). They will find it difficult both to score against Sydney and to stop them from scoring The return of Alex Brosque from suspension for Sydney FC just adds to the Wanderers woes.

If the Wanderers could somehow force a draw on the road it would be a fantastic result for them.

2. Adam Taggart should be starting to show up on Ange Postecoglou's radar

It has been a tough road for Taggart since the striker represented Australia under Postecoglou's coaching at the 2014 World Cup.

Injury has repeatedly set him back and after he scored a double against Central Coast Mariners in his return to the A-League he missed the next five rounds with a calf injury.

But since overcoming that injury he has played eight straight games and scored in three of the last four to take his season tally to five.

Taggart's goal against Wellington Phoenix completed Perth's comeback from a goal down for a 2-1 win.

He hasn't played a lot of football in the last couple of years and faces a big challenge to get back into the Australia squad during the World Cup qualifying campaign, No-one has made the central striker role their own for the national team so Taggart could be in with a shot if he keeps scoring at club level.

3. Brisbane Roar got what they deserved

The Roar don't go for the jugular the way Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory do.

They led 1-0 at home against Newcastle Jets, but instead of maintaining intensity and maybe even increasing it in a bid to finish them off they pressed the automatic pilot button and started cruising.

It wasn't the first time this season Brisbane had displayed that attitude and it's like they think that when they get in front they've automatically got the opposition covered.

There was too much sideways and backwards passing when they should have been more proactive and it came back to bite the Roar when Newcastle scored an equaliser just before halftime.

Brisbane didn't change their approach until they fell behind midway through the second half, but by then Newcastle had such a sniff that even after Brisbane had equalised at 2-2 the Jets came back again to win anyway.

4. Leaving Connor Pain on the bench is a luxury Central Coast Mariners can't afford

If coach Paul Okon wanted someone on the bench against Sydney FC who could make something happen when they came on it would have been fair enough to have winger Pain there  - if the Mariners were flush with star players to pick from.

But the fact is they're not and they really could have done with Pain from the start.

The Mariners were 2-0 down by the time Pain came on in the 63rd minute. His determined runs were instrumental in getting them back into the game, but in the end it wasn't enough and after pulling level at 2-2 they went down 3-2.

They could have been a bigger force earlier in the game had Pain been out there to put the Sydney defence under more pressure.

5. Andrew Nabbout is right in the frame for the Johnny Warren Medal

Early in the season, Sydney FC's Milos Ninkovic and Melbourne City's Bruno Fornaroli were all the rage as contenders for the competition's best player award.

Then Melbourne Victory's Marco Rojas forced his way into the argument.

Now Newcastle's Andrew Nabbout has earned the right to consideration with a string of excellent performances recently.

He was a prime mover in the 3-2 win by the Jets over Brisbane and he doesn't have as many star teammates capable of stealing votes away from him as those other three players do.

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4 min read
Published 9 January 2017 at 7:07am
By Greg Prichard