Perth Glory striker Shane Smeltz has been ruled out of Sunday’s clash with Melbourne Heart at nib Stadium after tearing a hamstring during international duty this week.
Smeltz is set to miss at least two games after picking up the injury during New Zealand’s 3-0 win over Tahiti in a World Cup qualifier.
The Glory front man had also missed last weekend’s loss to Central Coast Mariners because of his Kiwi commitments, which allowed Billy Mehmet to return to the starting line-up.
Mehmet will retain his place against Heart in a Glory line-up that will be missing central defender Bas van den Brink, who has a calf injury.
Coach Ian Ferguson said Steve Pantelidis would be promoted to the starting line-up in van den Brink’s absence.
“We won’t take any chances (with van den Brink),” Ferguson said. “We feel as though if we tried to push him it could possibly get worse. But at this moment in time we’ve decided that he doesn’t train today, he won’t train over the weekend and give it rest. Hopefully he should be back in training for next week.”
The prognosis for Smeltz is for a longer spell on the sidelines after a long pre-season of Olympic and World Cup qualifiers appears to have taken its toll.
“He’s got a little tear in his hamstring and it’s probably going to take two to three weeks,” said Ferguson, indicating Smeltz was also likely to miss games against Sydney and Newcastle Jets.
Heart have made an unbeaten start to the A-League campaign after suffering a 5-0 thrashing against Glory in their final pre-season hit-out.
But Ferguson watched closely the John Aloisi-led Heart in their draw with Wellington Phoenix last weekend — in which they lost Simon Colosimo to a red card early in the second half — and has been impressed.
“Probably that defeat (against Glory) has been good for Johnny because he’s obviously had a lot of time… I think he had two or three weeks to try and get a lot of things right, and they’ve done that.
“They’ve obviously worked very hard on what they had to fix and they are looking very strong.”