28/05/2024

Bulls captain Mark Milligan in disbelief after being shown a red card. Photo: FOX SPORTS

Macarthur captain and Socceroo Mark Milligan will miss this weekend's must win game against the Wanderers. Coach Ante Milicic sees the bright side.

When Macarthur captain Mark Milligan was shown a red card in the 20th minute of the Bulls’ clash with crosstown rivals Sydney FC, the match was all but over.

A dangerous slide tackle on Sydney striker Trent Buhagiar saw Milligan rubbed out for the remainder of the match, and he will further miss this weekend’s game against the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Playing a man down, the Bulls kept scores level in the first half before conceding three second half goals to Aussie youngster Patrick Wood (66′, 86′) and Serbian veteran Milos Ninkovic (76′).

Though the game was one-sided after half time, inaugural coach Ante Milicic was quick to take positives away, backing his players in to bounce back.

“I was happy with everyone, to be honest,” he said on Thursday.

“For the first 20 minutes we were good, we were well into the game, and then for 45 minutes, not only did we play against the current champions with a player less, but we had a couple of opportunities.

“In the end, they had the quality and when they scored their first one it was difficult.

“We had a lot of players whose performances were good, the way that they wanted that challenge and the way that they stepped up, I was so proud of the commitment that they gave. I’m not surprised by that, because of the standards they set every day.”

One of those impressive players was 21 year-old forward Lachlan Rose, who was subbed on for just his fifth A-League appearance.

Signed by Macarthur in November last year, Rose has made an impressive rise from New South Wales NPL2 club Blacktown.

While his top level experience has been handy, Rose’s biggest accomplishment after the game was gaining the respect of his coach.

“Lachie Rose did very well, he showed his qualities when he came on, he impacted the game,” Milicic said.

“We knew we were a player down, we needed his intelligence on transition. In the end, he had two really good chances but if you look at him a little bit deeper, he’s the type of player that can get onto those chances.

“He’s come from NPL2, and we understand that we can’t put too much pressure and expectation on him because he’s still learning the game at this level. What he does have is this natural, raw talent and ability, and passion for the game, and he’s fit in so well. We’re trying to improve him every day.

“Yes he’s in line to start, but there’s a still few pieces to the puzzle we want to put together before we name our line up on Saturday.”

Looking ahead to Saturday

The pressure is on Milicic and his Bulls in the lead-up to Saturday’s game against the Wanderers.

They’ll take plenty of confidence into the game after downing their Western Sydney rivals one-nil in their first ever A-League hit out.

https://twitter.com/mfcbulls/status/1356769464176549894?s=20

Most importantly, Macarthur will have the opportunity to win for the first time in front of a home crowd, with two losses and a draw at home in its campaign so far.

“Three games and we haven’t won at home, of course we’re disappointed,” Milicic said.

“On the flip side, we’ve won both of our away fixtures.

“It’s something that we need to address and no better time than against our rival Western Sydney.

“We’re a new team, we’re looking to improve every day and now with a couple of home games in the next few weeks it’s a good opportunity for us to get three points for the supporters, for our members and for the local community that’s backed us really well from the start.”

“Every team brings different challenges. Any team that’s coached by Carl Robinson play a good, attacking brand of football, it’s a very modern way of playing. He’s created an atmosphere in the club.

“We know that there’s going to be challenges, but we have played them before and we have beaten them, so we take confidence from that. We’ll analyse them as we do with any team, but ultimately it’s going to come back to us.

“We believe we have a strong enough squad and a playing style that when we do put it together, that we can take the game to any opposition whether that be home or away.”

A selection headache looms for the coach, faced with the uneasy task of replacing Socceroo and captain Milligan.

“During the moments of the game where it’s going to be difficult we need leaders out there, not just a player that’s got the armband,” Milicic said.

“Millsy’s a big loss but we feel that we’ve got enough experienced players in there to show some leadership qualities on the field.

“We know that, but this is now an opportunity for other players to step up.”

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