Allira Toby played as the central striker for the first time for Canberra United against Perth Glory. (Photo: Canberra United/Twitter)

After going scoreless twice in a winless season so far, Canberra United's forward group is still building its cohesion and best mix.

Canberra United midfielder Ash Sykes admits that the forward group has still got to take “the next step” if they want to start winning games.

For the first time this season, United kept a clean sheet in its draw against Perth Glory. But likewise, it also remained goalless for the second time in four games.

This is in spite of what Sykes describes as a “great” goal scoring group, led by reigning Julie Dolan Medallist Michelle Heyman, and supported by Allira Toby and Holly Caspers.

While they’ve combined for four goals in a draw with Brisbane Roar and a loss to Adelaide United, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“[Scoring] proved a bridge too far the other day,” Sykes told media on Friday morning.

“It’s something we’ve been working on, creating more chances for the forwards to score goals. I think we’ve improved that the past few games.

“Now we need the next step, and that’s scoring goals. Luckily we have a game again tomorrow, so a chance to get straight back on the horse and try and put some at the back at the net.”

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Coach Vicki Linton has been steadily building the chemistry between Toby and Heyman, shuffling the forward group around them.

Toby was utilised as the central striker for the first time in Canberra colours against the Glory, and looked to struggle with the extra attention she got as a result.

She was marked the hardest of the forwards, in particular at set pieces, often leaving Heyman with plenty of space on the right, but nothing to do with it.

Sykes sees the group as a threatening one that just needs to find its best mix, quickly.

“Allira’s another really dangerous player, and it’s great that we have a few good options with those two as well as Holly [Caspers] coming off the bench,” she said.

“I think as an attacking unit, we look really good. I think what each person offers is really different. What Michelle offers is different to what Allira can offer which is different to what I can offer.

“Between Allira and Michelle we’ve got some great goal scorers, so I hope we can score some more goals in this game coming up and as we move forward.”

Getting back on the pitch

After making her first start for the season in Round 1 in her second A-League Women comeback, Sykes has been a regular fixture of the Canberra midfield.

She has had to juggle her fitness however, playing 85 minutes first up, 45 minutes in the second match, missing against the Roar with injury and returning for 29 minutes against the Glory.

The delay between games gave her significant time to recover however, and she’ll look to build fitness quickly with matches backing up without much break.

“It’s nice to play after a couple of weeks with no game,” Sykes said.

“I think all the girls enjoyed getting out there. You work hard at training so that you can play matches, so it was good that we got to play Perth.

“I had a little muscle injury before Christmas, and thankfully that’s mostly resolved now. I’ll keep managing the body after a nice bus ride to Sydney. Looking to get more minutes tomorrow night in the game.”

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Canberra will face its next opponent after just a three day turnaround, playing the Glory on Wednesday and Adelaide United on Saturday.

The two sides have already met this season barely a month ago, where the Reds went away with the three points after an early Nanako Sasaki equaliser was capped off by Emily Condon’s injury time strike.

After early struggles to gel, Adelaide has proven itself as a team with a lot of offensive presence, putting four into the back of the net against the Glory.

With Condon, Chelsie Dawber, Fiona Worts, Paige Hayward, and the returning Dylan Holmes, it’s a side that’s looking more dangerous up front by the day.

But after holding off the likes of Cyera Hintzen, Susan Phonsongkham, and Alana Jancevski, who’ve all scored already this year, Canberra is coming in confident.

“They seem to have gelled well together this year. It’s always hard to break down a team that’s got such good cohesion, they’re all on the same page,” Sykes said of their opposition.

“We were close to getting a win last time we played them, or a result. We conceded some disappointing goals and weren’t at our best.

“We as a group have come a long way since that last game, and I feel confident that we’re not going to make the same mistakes as last time and break them down similar to what we did in that game.”

Canberra and Adelaide kick off at Viking Park on January 8, from 5:05pm local time.

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