Last-gasp goal scorer Nick Ward says Perth Glory were left disappointed with last night’s 1-1 draw against high-flying Western Sydney Wanderers at Patersons Stadium.
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic was wary of overworking his team during a busy festive fixture list and made six changes to his starting line-up.
But Glory failed to take full advantage of the disruption to their opponents, falling behind to a superb Labinot Haliti strike in the first half before salvaging a draw.
Ward was the hero for the home side, scoring an 87th minute equaliser after entering the fray as a second-half substitute in place of injured defender Michael Thwaite.
But the point wasn’t enough to satisfy Glory, who saw two of striker Shane Smeltz’s goal-bound shots in the dying stages blocked on the line.
“We would’ve liked to have got three points at home but the way the game went it was probably a fair result,” Ward said at this morning's recovery session at City Beach.
“Towards the end there we had a few corners and a few crosses coming in and there were chances there.
“It was just unfortunate someone was there on the line to block Smeltzy’s header.”
Ward’s goal came from a well timed strike on the end of a cross from impressive Japanese youth international Ryo Nagai.
Hamstring and knee injuries had limited Nagai to just one appearance as a substitute before his starting debut last night, but he proved an instant crowd pleaser with a series of clever touches in the first half.
Nagai played havoc on the left flank and caused much grief for marker Tarek Elrich, who was booked in the 17th minute after connecting with several crude challenges.
Ward could be locked in a battle with Nagai for a place in the team this season, but gave the 21-year-old his tick of approval.
“I thought he looked very lively, especially at the start,” Ward said.
“He probably got a fouled a fair bit, which he’s probably going to get, but I thought he did quite well.
“When he first came in he looked really good; in the pre-season games he was lighting it up.
“I even think a couple of times when he cut inside he should’ve let fly because he’s got a great shot on him.”
Thwaite will have scans today on a suspected torn right calf muscle after pulling up midway through the second half.
He immediately signalled to the bench and left the playing arena on crutches after the game.
Thwaite is unlikely to play in Monday’s game away to league leaders Central Coast Mariners.
Steve Pantelidis has overcome a toe injury and is the natural replacement for Thwaite, but the injury leaves Glory’s already thin defensive stocks even thinner.Central Coast will have to find replacements for suspended trio John Hutchinson, Daniel McBreen and Tom Rogic after all fell foul of the referee in their 1-0 loss to Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium last night.