Melbourne City sits third on the W-League table after the opening two rounds of the season after drawing 1-1 with Newcastle Jets in round one and downing Canberra United 2-1 in round two.
Yet, despite only residing behind the W-League’s two Sydney sides on the table ahead of their round three trip to Shepparton to take on Adelaide United, Head Coach Rado Vidošić side has not looked overly convincing thus far.
Doggedly held to a draw by a fledgling Jets side in the Hunter in round one, City was forced to come-from-behind against Canberra on Sunday after Katie Stengel put the side from the nation’s capital ahead just prior to the hour mark.
Serb international Milica Mijatović netted her first goal for her new club in the 67th to tie things up before a 94th minute penalty from Emily van Egmond secured her side the three points.
With literally every member of the City starting XI bar American defender Lauren Barnes capped at international level for the Canberra game, it definitely wasn’t the type of performance the group was truly capable of.
While football is ultimately a results-based business, results - especially of the early season variety - can’t quickly prove unsustainable if built on shaky foundations of reliance on individual talent to bail oneself out of jams.
One noticeable aspect of the Canberra fixture was the surplus of defensive talent deployed by City.
Such was the glut that, by the end of the game, nominal wing-back Steph Catley was playing up front – much to Matildas’ teammate Sam Kerr’s delight.
However, with Scottish international Claire Emslie set to return from her round two absence and Kyah Simon – who was a halftime substitute against Canberra – continuing to build fitness, Vidošić is pleased with his side's start and is confident they will prove more lethal this weekend.
“I’m thrilled. Last season, we had zero points [after round two],” he told journalists on Wednesday.
“We are four points better than last year and I think now we are getting players physically in a little bit better shape.
“We still have to look after them throughout the week but I think this week we’re going to have Claire Emslie back.
“The team is looking stronger and stronger. I’m very positive about that.
“[Against Canberra] certain players only had certain amounts of time and it was very obvious that once Kyah came out we lost a little bit of composure and cohesion in that front third.
“We didn’t control the game in the second half as well as we did in the first half.”
Load management, nevertheless, will remain an issue.
“Kyah cannot play 90 minutes,” the City gaffer said.
“Claire probably can’t play 90 minutes, so we need to still be looking after them.
“Mili [Mijatović] felt very, very tired. Aivi was very tired. Players that came from Norway, from freezing cold weather to play in heat in Canberra, they really struggled those last 15-20 minutes.”
“To get a win, it just shows the character and the competitiveness of these girls, what they’ve got in themselves. I was very thrilled about that.”
For van Egmond, who is in the midst of her first season in Bundoora after previously playing with the Jets, the sum of the fearsome collection of parts that have been assembled by the club in 2019/20 will only be improved upon as they spend more time together.
Ellie Carpenter, Mijatović and Emslie first made landfall at City just the week prior to round one, whilst Aivi Luik and Rebekah Stott were mid-week additions ahead of the Canberra fixture.
“Obviously our squad is second to none,” she said.
“There’s no excuses when it comes to who we have on the park, but at the same time sometimes those things can take a bit of time to build.
“We’re definitely on the right track and it’s a process. That’s only normal. You’ve just got to give it time, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“Now that we have our full squad onboard we just have to keep buying into the process. We’re really enjoying our time here and I think you’ll see in the coming weeks, step by step, how well we can actually go.”