Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce is about to hit the halfway mark of his first season in the A-League, and if he was to give a report card to his team it might read something like: "Progress satisfactory, must do better".
City has been close to the top of the pack chasing tearaway leader Sydney most of the campaign but has slipped back in recent weeks having narrowly lost the last two games. It was valiant losing 2-1 to Sydney and then went down in heartbreaking fashion 1-0 in the Christmas derby to Melbourne Victory, losing to a penalty in the last seconds of stoppage time.
The game against trouble-torn Western Sydney Wanderers on New Year's Day now shapes as a must win if City wants to stay lodged in the top three.
Joyce is happy with his team's workrate, commitment and pressure on the ball and with the discipline they show most of the time.
But, like every coach, he wants more goals. Given the injury which has kept Bruno Fornaroli out all season, the departure of Tim Cahill and the fact that Ross McCormack may not be available after the January transfer window, Joyce needs his midfielders to provide more of a threat.
That is why the club signed A-League regular Dario Vidosic as an out-of-contract player at the end of last week. It was not a signing that excited most fans - Vidosic is one of football's wandering players who has had stints at many clubs - but he has a record of scoring once in every four games.
Knows how to find the net: New Melbourne City signing Dario Vidosic. Photo: AAP
At the very least he will provide selection competition and cover for the loss of Stefan Mauk and Bruce Kamau, two of City's attacking options who will be away with the Olympic team in January.
"I think there is still the bit about finishing the chances we have got to get better at," says Joyce.
"There are a lot of good things, discipline wise, fitness wise, organisation wise that are working and we are dominating the opposition at times.
"We have had good spells of play, good possession and created chances, but you want to beat teams 3-0 or 4-0, you want the chances to go in and be comfortable, be two up and get another one.
"There's a different freedom about all sides when they get in those sorts of situations, and we have never really got to that level. It's always been quite tight really, the goals difference has never been where you get real freedom, not cavalier, but where players get the chance to express themselves a little bit more."
Joyce would also like more concentration at both ends of the park.
"There are times when we give the ball away too cheaply in decent areas and it doesn't even end up with an opportunity or a chance.
"Goals change games and change perceptions of games and change how relaxed you are in your open play and how you go on.
"You want to put someone to the sword, score three or four and still keep a clean sheet. That's the idea you want to see."
He would also like to be able to pick the same team on a more regular basis.
"We've had a spell where we've changed the side a little bit. Sometimes not because of injuries, because of suspensions and illness.
"The two sides at the top of the league have been the most settled sides this season. Nearly every week the same players play in the same positions in the same style.
"Most successful sides have that, they have a pattern of play. They have everybody knowing their jobs and square pegs in square holes.
"Sometimes we've had to juggle it round with square pegs in round holes and it's not looked as smooth as you'd like."
Fornaroli is his main strike weapon, and he is still not expected to be available until late in January or early February.
"He's the same with anybody coming back from injury. They have ups and downs and highs and lows. It's normal.
"He was going fantastically well and then he had a bit of a snag and it puts him back. It was just a little bit of pain ... each level you step it up from the work you do or the running or the gym work, it also puts a different load on that part of the body. You get reactions which is normal."