With just one round of the regular season remaining, the A-League table couldn’t be much tighter with just four points separating the top five teams.
While Perth Glory can’t mathematically claim first place and the Premiers Plate, the West Australian side is in scintillating form having won 10 of their last 11 games.
A big reason for that stunning run has been the influence of Republic of Ireland striker Andy Keogh who broke the A-League record for scoring in successive games when he netted against Melbourne City on Sunday evening.
Keogh’s second half strike made it eight on the trot and set Glory on their way to a vital 3-2 win over one of the league’s strongest and most entertaining sides this season.
While the top six in the A-League qualify for the finals, those that finish in third and fourth spot play their first postseason game at home and that would be a big boost for a Glory side that racks up the air miles during the regular season.
A win away to Sydney FC this coming Sunday, coupled with a draw or defeat for either Melbourne City or Western Sydney Wanderers, would see Glory finish in one of those coveted positions.
Rewind to this time last year and such permutations would have been unthinkable as the club were booted out of the A-League finals for breaching the salary cap having built a squad that finished third after 27 games.
The fallout from that fiasco was devastating as the majority of the starting eleven departed and coach Kenny Lowe was forced to start from scratch.
Keogh’s contact at the club, which still had a year to run, was torn up and he headed for Thailand to link up with top flight side Ratchaburi Mitr Phol.
Just months later though, the ill fated spell came to an end as a goal shy Keogh left Ratchaburi, later describing it as a good opportunity that didn’t unfold as expected.
Upon his return to Australia at the end of last year, Keogh initially joined Glory to train with a view to signing next season, however the club decided to part ways with Dutch flop Guyon Fernandez who had been occupying one of the club’s visa spots.
Speaking at his unveiling back in December, Keogh said that he was delighted to return to Perth where his family had remained while he was his Thailand.
I’m committed to helping Perth Glory become a powerhouse in the A-League and pledge to do my best to see it return to its glory days.
It took three games for the former Cabinteely junior to find his feet back in league but since then he has netted 10 times in 10 games.
Over the course of the 2014/15 season, Keogh was an ever present and scored 12 times in 27 games, averaging a goal every 202 minutes compared to his strike rate of one every 108 minutes this time round (13 games, 10 goals).
So good has Keogh’s form been that he was last week linked with a return to the Republic of Ireland set up ahead of this summer’s European Championships, though a spot in the final 23-man squad still seems unlikely.
Robbie Keane, Jonathan Walters and Kevin Doyle are currently nursing injuries but should be good to go come June and, along with the likes of Shane Long and Daryl Murphy, they are ahead of the 30 times capped Keogh in the pecking order.
I’m hoping [Republic of Ireland manager] Martin O’Neill has noticed. I love my country and feel I can contribute, especially as I’m in good form and scoring goals.
Martin has shown a willingness to look outside the box with some players and I’d love to show what I could do in a training camp.
However, the fact that a player from the A-League is even being talked about as a option is testament to just how good Keogh has been since returning to regular action in January.
Ireland’s next game is a friendly against the Netherlands in Dublin on May 27, and before that Keogh’s focus will be on firing Glory to their first piece of silverware of the A-League era.
Glory’s revival can’t be solely attributed to Keogh though, and he has been ably assisted by exciting Spanish marquee Diego Castro who has netted 13 times so far and lit up nib Stadium with some scintillating performances.
Hungarian midfielder Krisztián Vadócz, another midseason recruit, has shored up the midfield and been described by some as the most important signing of the campaign such is his influence in front of the back four.
Right back Josh Risdon is becoming a regular in the Australian squad, while Perth native Shane Lowry has come on board to shore up the defence having played for Millwall, Leeds United and Birmingham City amongst others in England.
Irrespective of how the final round plays out, Glory’s resurgence has been remarkable – they took just four points from a possible 24 to slump to the bottom of the table in December but have since claimed 39 from a possible 54.
Supporters who turned their back on the club in the wake of their salary cap issues have started to return to the stands, thanks to a combination of substantial on and off field improvements.
While there is still plenty of work to do, the future of Perth Glory is a lot brighter than it was 12 months ago with a free-scoring Keogh leading the line.