Maclaren needs better service from Socceroos: Milligan
Al Ain: Socceroos captain Mark Milligan has leapt to the defence of striker Jamie Maclaren, whose struggles at international level continued with another quiet display against Jordan.
Maclaren is still searching for his first goal after making his ninth appearance for his country in the 1-0 defeat in Al Ain. But as was the case with his last start in November's friendly against South Korea in Brisbane, he barely touched the ball.
The 25-year-old was a late inclusion for Andrew Nabbout, who injured his groin in the last five minutes of the team's final training session before the match.
Maclaren is a classic poacher; a fox-in-the-box who does his best work with darting off-the-shoulder runs, not with his back to goal. But Jordan's tactics forced Australia to play as if they had a target man up front.
Maclaren stands only 179cm and had little chance of winning anything in the air against Jordan's centre-backs, while the Socceroos' struggles through the middle of the park meant they were unable to harness his strengths.
Milligan, who plays with Maclaren at Scottish club Hibernian, said the team needed to provide him with better service. "He's still quite fresh to the Socceroos scene, he hasn't had a great deal of starts and I think for a striker that's important as well," he said.
"But it's a tough situation because we knew how busy it would be in the middle of that park. In the first half when he was asked to do some work with his back to goal, he did.
"I thought in the second half I thought he made some very nice movements and runs around the box. It definitely will come from Macca, because his movement in and around the box is very good. But he needs to receive better delivery from us."
Maclaren did find the back of the net in the 87th minute but was adjudged to have been offside when he smacked home a loose ball in the box.
Milligan stressed injuries were not an excuse and Nabbout's absence did not disrupt their preparations. Right-back Josh Risdon also came off at half-time with a groin strain that will be assessed by team doctors. There's no indication yet how long either of them will be sidelined for.
The Socceroos were already without four first-choice players in Daniel Arzani, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie and Martin Boyle.
"I don't want it to sound like a cliche, but it's part of football. It's what happens," Milligan said. "We have a squad for a reason and we do believe in everybody in that squad.
"More importantly, this is the first time a lot of these players have been in a tournament situation such as this. It maybe contributed to the first 20 minutes. It's never easy, we know that. We've seen that again today. And now the ones who haven't have experienced it."
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.