Canberra United’s 1-0 win against Wellington Phoenix on Sunday will ensure that the mood remains confident ahead of their midweek meeting with Sydney FC.

In a tight contest between two sides who have remained competitive throughout the Liberty A-League Season, United clinched the 3 points through a 78th minute Michelle Heyman header, a strike which equalled Sam Kerr’s 2018/19 record of 21 goal contributions in one season.

Head Coach Njegosh Popovich emphasised the importance of Heyman’s goal.

“Michelle’s got her own personal milestones, but I think that she’s more about the team,” he said. “For all the hard work that the girls put in for 78 minutes there, and she pops up and scores that goal which proves to be the winner, I think that it is a little bit of excited relief for her as well.”

Another goal crafted by Heyman’s productive relationship on the pitch with Nickoletta Flannery proved to be the undoing of Wellington, with their combination likely to cause problems for sides facing United in the final two matches of the season.

“I don’t know how she scores those goals, like she’s a freak of nature,” Flannery said. “I just put all my energy into that cross, praying that she would get on the end of it, and of course she did and just placed it right in the bottom corner.”

“We have a great connection between the two of us and I just love playing alongside her.”

With attention turning to those remaining fixtures, Sydney FC on Wednesday night, and Brisbane Roar the following Saturday, Njegosh Popovich’s side is focused on achieving maximum points.

“We set ourselves a target of 9 points from 3 games, so that’s a starting point,” Popovich said. “First game; tick that one off, and then move onto the next one on Wednesday night.”

From a player’s perspective, Flannery commented on the motivation to fight for pride in the final instalments of Canberra’s season, capitalising on the momentum driven by Sunday’s victory.

“I feel like we’ve deserved a lot of results this season and they haven’t gone our way,” she said. “So, for us we just want to end on a high, for our pride and for the pride of playing for this club.”

With potential Premiers Sydney FC on the horizon, the opportunity to take down the nation’s most successful club is not one that Popovich’s side are intent on shying away from.

“I love playing teams like Sydney FC,” Flannery commented. “They’ve got a great style of football and they’ve got talented players… you always have to step up and meet the intensity, and I definitely think we’re capable of doing [one over them] after today’s win.”

“There is a little bit of rivalry between Sydney and us, it has been there for a lot of years,” Popovich said. “The good thing about it is if you do come out to watch those two teams play, that’s the best youth in the country on display with both teams, so looking forward to the game, looking forward to the challenge.”

One factor that plays in United’s hands is the home support, one for which both Flannery and the Head Coach have identified as playing a significant role in getting the team over the line.

“You feel it in the last 10 minutes when you’re really cooked and you’ve got nothing left in your legs, and they’re all here showing up, and they continue to show up,” Flannery said. “That’s why this club has been so successful for so long, and I hope that this continues, and they can stay along for the ride.”

“I’ve said all along our home support is the best in the country, it’s amazing when they start screaming out Canberra how much the girls lift,” Popovich enthused. “Hopefully everyone can get out on a Wednesday night for a 4:00 kick-off to support the team, and maybe be a bit of a spoiler to Sydney.”

Wednesday 27 March

Canberra United v Sydney FC (McKellar Park, 16:00)


Words: Sam Watson