Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson has revealed he will make two changes to his squad for Sunday’s clash with Central Coast Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium.
With striker Shane Smeltz away on international duty, Billy Mehmet will be handed a start after coming off the bench to score his side’s late winner against Brisbane last weekend.
And highly-rated Japanese import Ryo Nagai is set to make his competitive debut for the Western Australians from the bench after shrugging off a minor hamstring strain.
“Smeltzy is away with New Zealand so we’ll bring Billy Mehmet in to play up front and we’ll bring young Ryo in as well,” Ferguson said.
“He (Nagai) has come through training well, so he’ll be on the bench.
“He’s quick, mobile, has good feet and can play left or right, so he has a lot to offer. We’ll see how he goes and try and get some game time into him this week.
“When we played our two pre-season friendlies in Melbourne, of the seven goals we scored, he was involved in four of them, so he’s definitely got a bit about him.”
Ferguson was also quick to praise Mehmet, whose vital goal against Roar was his seventh for the club.
“Billy and Shane have obviously got their own individual qualities,” he said.
“Shane is more of a goalscorer, whereas Billy can be a bit more of a target-man.
“He can provide that platform for us, hold it up and get the midfield to support him.
“They are different players, but two great players to have in your squad and I was delighted with Billy’s contribution off the bench last week.”
The 28-year-old’s muscular presence in attack should serve Glory well against a Mariners side renowned for their physicality.
Although the men from Gosford were not at their best in their opening-round draw with Western Sydney Wanderers, Ferguson still sees them as serious title contenders.
“The Mariners are a very good side and I’m not going to judge them on one or two games,” he said.
“They’ll be there of thereabouts come the end of the season.
“They have the nucleus of the same squad again and they are going to be difficult to beat.
“They are a physical side and we get that tag thrown at us as well unfortunately.
“I’ve always said you have to win the battle before the football is played and hopefully we can do that on Sunday, but it’s going to be a tough game.”
Prior to last season’s preliminary final, Glory had failed to win in eight visits to Bluetongue Stadium.
But having ended that barren run with a victorious penalty shoot-out, Ferguson feels that the trip to Gosford is no longer one to be feared by his men.
“The last two times we’ve played them, we’ve actually done very well,” he said.
“We beat them here at nib Stadium and then got that draw over there and got through on penalties and we’ll definitely be taking confidence from that.”