Former England striker Daniel Sturridge is edging closer to his first A-League men's start for Perth Glory, but they must check on some tightness the injury-prone star experienced in his most encouraging performance yet.
The former Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City forward, who had around half-an-hour off the bench across his first two games, did well after coming on in the 63rd minute of Saturday's 2-1 win at Sydney FC.
He set up a chance for Spaniard Adrian Sardinero and showed some nice touches, with Perth coach Richard Garcia describing it as a "stepping stone In the right direction" for the 32-year-old forward.
Sturridge looked a little tender in the closing minutes, but Garcia said his star recruit had a bit of tightness which would be checked.
Asked if Sturridge had a chance of his first Glory start in Wednesday's match at Macarthur, Garcia said "he's played two (blocks of) 30 minutes, so we'll probably have to build him up to a 45 and then possibly a 60 and build him into a 90.
"That's the plan to continue to build him. We'll assess how he feels after this one because now it's back-to-back 30s.
"We want to build up on Wednesday again. Whether that means a start or not is another thing."
Sturridge came into the game at the same time as Republic of Ireland forward Andy Keogh, giving Perth a three-pronged strike force for the final third of the game.
Garcia was bullish about the combination of Sturridge, Keogh and starting striker Bruno Fornaroli, who scored Perth's second goal.
"Thats a good sign for the likes of Andy and Bruno and Daniel that they link so well," Garcia said.
"The team were outstanding tonight and everybody played their part."
The game was just Perth's second in almost six and a half weeks and a sixth straight game outside of WA since their first A League match.
With the scheduled February 5 re-opening of WA's borders canned and no new date named, Glory's resilience will be tested as they face an indefinite period interstate.
"Its been a very tough few months and it's fantastic to see their resilience as a group. Their togetherness is pulling them through times that are difficult," Garcia said.
"The unknown is always difficult to deal with and the way they have conducted themselves and the way they bounce back from the setbacks is fantastic.
"It's been very difficult but the group is very much adapting to every single scenario."
Asked how he ensured the group remained resilient after various setbacks, Garcia said: "Just making them focus on what we can control, which is our football.
"That's a hard one to do when your mind can wander, your emotions can wander and take control of you, but I think the group are learning how to adapt and learning how to deal with everything that's going on."
Australian Associated Press
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