Heart must perform or perish in A-League
Melbourne Heart defender Michael Marrone has declared it's time for the underperforming A-League side to deliver or risk squandering the finals platform they have built.
Winless in eight games and with just two goals in their past five, the Heart have spiralled south from a top two position prior to the New Year.
Now their top six spot is in jeopardy - the Heart precariously placed in sixth with the worst current form of the finals contenders as Sydney FC (seventh) and Melbourne Victory (eighth) hover with intent.
The Heart must beat bottom side Gold Coast United at AAMI Park on Friday night to get points and aid a goal difference sent into the negative by a 3-0 loss to Newcastle last weekend.
In a frank assessment, Marrone said Heart's problems weren't just a goalscoring issue - the entire team's performance needed to lift.
"We've got to look at ourselves. We haven't been delivering. Lately we haven't been playing properly as a team," Marrone said.
"Some people put it down to players missing, but as players you can look at those as excuses.
"We've still had good players on the park but we haven't been able to deliver.
"You can't blame the strikers, you can't blame the midfielders. It's just the team as a whole.
"Last week I don't think anyone performed well, and it's up to all of us to lift."
Marrone signed a new two-year deal with the Heart on Wednesday, and added further to an upbeat session suggesting the side are confident of arresting their freefall.
Captain Fred looks certain to start the match, and trained strongly at AAMI Park to suggest he is over the groin injury that has ruled him out for most of their winless run.
Midfielder Matt Thompson rates himself a 50-50 chance of returning from a knee injury, though it is far more likely he will be saved for the following week's clash with Central Coast Mariners.
Gold Coast will be badly weakened with the loss of captain Michael Thwaite - their rock throughout a difficult season - and perhaps experienced midfielder Jonas Salley.
Thwaite is suspended after exceeding the yellow card limit with his caution last weekend in a 2-1 loss to Adelaide United.
Salley is understood to have agreed a contract to play in China, which would bring to an end his short-team deal at the Coast.