HAMILTON target man Kane Goodchild will return to the Olympic starting side this weekend against Adamstown after recovering from an ankle injury he suffered playing rugby union.
Goodchild, who turns 29 on Friday, was the Northern NSW golden boot in 2014 with 13 goals for Charlestown then scored 12 last season after moving to Darling Street.
The imposing striker damaged ankle ligaments playing at fullback for the Australian police rugby union side in a tournament in England in late October and has missed much of the pre-season.
He pulled up sore after an FFA Cup win over Charlestown on April 2 and has completed only three weeks of full training.
Goodchild replaced Daniel Bird (groin) at half-time in last weekend’s goalless draw with Maitland but will start on Saturday night against Rosebud, who were hammered 7-2 by Broadmeadow Magic last weekend.
Olympic coach Michael Bolch has changed formations this season to give Goodchild more support after the striker was badly isolated in last year’s 2-0 loss to Edgeworth in the grand final.
A-League veteran Leo Bertos and Tom Spencer played as strikers last week before Bertos switched to left wing when Goodchild came on.
Bolch expects to retain that line-up if Bird does not recover this week.
“I’ve never been a fan of just one up front,” Bolch said.
“Last year Goody got a bit isolated up front by himself. In the grand final it was really noticeable.”
Bolch was a frustrated onlooker at Cooks Square Park on Sunday as Olympic, again one of the title favourites this season, struggled to break down Steve Piggott’s side.
“We just couldn’t find that final pass,” Bolch said. “The day was 32, 33 degrees. We do play a high-intensity pressing game, and I think that took a bit out of us and played into their hands.
“They got blokes behind the ball and really clogged up space for us to play. We should have done a lot better. Our execution and composure wasn’t great in the first half. We probably had 70 per cent of the possession but didn’t do a great deal with it.
“They had a couple of good chances in the second half, good one-on-ones where Danny Ireland has made good saves when they caught us on the counter-attack.”
Bolch said Maitland would continue to do well against sides who brought the game to them.
“They’ll be very hard to beat up there. They’ve got some quality in their side. You’ve got Matt Trott, Heffernan, Crowell and Matt Thompson who have all played A-League. You’ve got Carl Thornton, who has been probably one of the best defenders in the comp for the last 10 years.
“When they’ve got to take the game to the opposition, it will be interesting, but they’ve got the players to do it. I think they’ll definitely finish a lot higher than they did last year. Their starting 11 is as good as anyone else’s.”