After just falling short of a top four spot in the men’s NPL last year, Belconnen United are hoping to secure themselves a place in the finals this 2022 season.
Though the commitment and drive is there, not much is going Belconnen’s way in the season so far with two losses from the first three rounds making for a less than ideal start.
Blue Devils Coach, Michael Zakoski, is not disheartened though, believing he can turn their luck around in the games moving forward.
Losing 3-0 to Gungahlin United in the ANZAC Day third round at home last Saturday, concerns surrounding a defensive line that has now shipped six goals in two home matches, as well as poor transitional play were identified.
“It’s difficult, I feel like today we had a couple of opportunities where we got into the final third and weren’t clinical enough,” Zakoski said. “I think there was a lack of concentration in defensive transition, we turned over a lot of cheap goals that we worked hard not to concede, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way,”
It was clear that changes had to be made after the half-time whistle was blown and these were discussed before returning to the field for the final forty-five minutes.
“We talked a lot about how we wanted to play forward. How we wanted to try and expose the wide areas as much as we could,” Zakoski revealed of his changing-room chat with his playing group.
“And really, I just focused a little bit more defensively trying to win second contacts. A lot of the time, the ball would get played over from the opposition, we would win our first contact defensively and the ball would fall in the midfield, but it fell their way more often than ours.”
Despite only picking up three points from a possible nine to start their new campaign, the head coach’s first at the helm of the men’s program, Zakoski holds out hope for the season ahead as he believes the foundations are there, it’s just about working and using them properly as a team.
“I think everyone is committed, I think everyone is on the same page, we understand what we want to do,” Zakoski said. “We had a lot of success through pre-season and then we’ve won one in the league so far, from three, so I think all the right habits are there, it’s just a matter of making the team gel.”
The Blue Devils have a big week ahead of them after leaving this match disappointed, with a game on Thursday and then another on Saturday, both against Canberra Olympic, the first in the Australia Cup Quarter Finals and the second in the league. There will only be one training in this quick five-day turn-over for the team, not leaving much time to reset mentally.
Just missing out on a final spot in the shortened 2021 season has Belconnen hungry to reach a position there this year, and Zakoski knows what needs to happen to see any chance at this result. In preparation for their games next week, Zakoski hopes his team can bounce back from this loss and reset to face the next opposition.
“I think defensively, we need to be much better, we can’t afford to be losing games 3-0 at home,” he admitted. “Now we’ve lost two games in a row, it’s just not acceptable for a club like this and I think defensively we need to be a bit better, because I think the goals are there.
“We’ve got one training between now and the Cup so, it’s more just injury management, making sure that the messages are clear. Just giving them a chance to reset mentally because it’s not easy to come back after losing 3-0 and then must go play in the cup so, a mental reset is required.”
With determination present within the team, Belconnen will hope they can climb up the ladder throughout the season and make a comeback in the following rounds to have their shot at a final four spot.
Words: Sonia Emmanuel