Hopkins happy with Derby prep

Jeff Hopkins was pleased to return to the winners’ list last week against Perth Glory, knowing winning form is good form ahead of Saturday’s Melbourne Derby.

“Last weekend was an excellent game for us.” Hopkins said on Friday.

“We got back on track after a couple of defeats and, more importantly, the performance was excellent. 

“We created a lot of chances and didn’t really give too much away defensively – it was a little hairy in the last few minutes of the game, but in general we were really pleased.”

Natasha Dowie’s seventh and eighth goals of the campaign were enough to edge the visiting Glory 2-1, returning Hopkins’ team to the top of the table in the process, and the manager was thrilled with the contribution of his skipper.

“She’s a key player for us and has been for the past three seasons, nothing has changed this year.

“Obviously, this year the difference is the support she’s had and the balls coming in from different areas have made things easier for her.

“She’s a key player for us and will be for the rest of the season.”

Another key player has been Christine Nairn, the American midfielder one of those chiefly responsible in supplying the goal-a-game Dowie. 

The pair combined tellingly – albeit unwittingly – for Melbourne Victory’s second and decisive goal last weekend, with Nairn standing a cross up to the back post which beat the keeper in flight and was prodded home at close range by her captain.

“Try and take it away from Tash,” Hopkins said with a laugh.

“I’m not getting involved there, I think we [saw] that Tash got the final touch before it crossed the line. I think she got that one”

A dead ball specialist and midfield maestro, Nairn mightn’t have been credited with the goal, but she has the full praise of her manager.

“She’s fantastic.

“Tash is getting on the end of things, but one of the big creative forces through midfield has been Christine. 

“She plays with a real energy and has an eye for the through pass, she can play off both feet and has been really important for us.”

Saturday’s clash is the second derby of the campaign and shapes as decisive in the make-up of the Westfield W-League’s finals picture.

Having won the first encounter in mid-November, Hopkins is embracing and encouraging an air of expectation within his side.

“Preparations have been good this week. We’ve trained well and have our last session tonight.

“Everyone trained yesterday, we’re just waiting to see how Lia Privitelli turns out today, but we’re pretty sure everyone will be fit and available for selection.

“It’s a huge game for both teams, I think, but for us we’ve started to put a bit of expectation on ourselves to go out there and put in good performances week in, week out and start expecting to go and win games.

“From where we are now to where we were last year, the positivity and belief in the team is growing and a good result tomorrow will add to that.”

Melbourne Victory hosts Melbourne City at Epping Stadium on Saturday, 5 January. Buy tickets in advance here.