|By GREIG JOHNSTON
Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi has called for a more committed performance from his men as they prepare to face A-League leaders Western Sydney at AAMI Park on Saturday.
The Heart have lost five of their past seven matches, and find themselves in ninth spot with three games to play - three points behind sixth-placed Newcastle in the race for the finals.
They have lost their past two games on the trot, to bottom side Wellington and, most recently, a 2-0 defeat to Adelaide at home on Monday.
Aloisi was disappointed by the nature of that loss, and wants to see more endeavour from his men when they welcome the high-flying Wanderers, who will be chasing a record 10th consecutive League victory.
"The message has been to compete," Aloisi said. "We saw how well Wellington ended up playing against Western Sydney. They challenged for every 50-50 ball.
"That's the biggest thing against a side like Western Sydney because you know they're going to do that.
"We didn't do that the other night against Adelaide United. We didn't compete for every ball. That's the biggest thing. We can play good football, we've shown that here at home.
"Morale's good. Of course everyone was disappointed in last week's performance and the result, but everyone wants to put that right and make sure these last three games we get as many points as possible to make finals."
Aloisi said Western Sydney's excellent form in their debut campaign had not taken him by surprise.
"They've got a really good squad, they've got a good coach," he said.
"When you get on a winning run like they are, the confidence seems to grow and they've done really well. So I'm not surprised.
"Having worked with Popa [Wanderers coach Tony Popovic] I know what he was like as a player and then as a coach - I'm not surprised."
Heart have been bolstered by the news that exciting right-back Jeremy Walker has signed his first professional contract with the club after being elevated from their youth team earlier this season.
The Tasmanian has impressed in his 11 appearances so far, and said he was thrilled to become the first person from Football Federation Tasmania's elite pathway to sign professionally with an A-League club.
"It's a dream come true," the 19-year-old said before training at AAMI Park On Friday.
"I guess nothing really changes now. I've got to perform each week until the end of the season and hopefully [we] get into finals and keep playing well then.
"It's enjoyable. I like competing and I like a challenge."