Canberra’s Ash Sykes says the time for excuses is over

Determined co-captain Ashleigh Sykes says the time for excuses is over as Canberra United eye a return to W-League title contention.

Canberra returned from a five-day pre-Christmas break on Friday ahead of their return to action against Adelaide United at McKellar Park on January 7.

Sykes’ return to the paddock was a welcome sight for Canberra coach Heather Garriock given the star striker has missed the past two games after spraining her ankle against Brisbane on December 3.

Sykes is adamant Canberra can turn around a three-match losing streak as their new-look squad looks to restore their championship hopes with five matches remaining.

The 26-year-old says Canberra saw the “benchmark” when they were trounced by Sydney last week and it’s time they began to match it with the competition’s best.

“It does take time to settle a new squad but we’re halfway through the season now,” Sykes said.

“We’ve got some time to work on more over the next couple of weeks and really aim for that next game. We can’t really take any more time to get to know each other, we have to start performing and start performing as a team.

“Right from the first performance in January we want to get a win and start playing better as well. The first two home games we have are definitely games we should be winning.

“We had a bad run just before Christmas now and we want to make sure we hit the ground running and take as many points as possible leading into the last five games.”

Sykes is the league’s reigning golden boot winner but has only managed one goal in her five matches this season, and she’s looking to use a clash with Adelaide to reinvigorate Canberra’s season.

United will have a two-day break over Christmas and Boxing Day before returning to the paddock in a bid to resurrect their title hopes.

Training over the Christmas period is designed to allow Garriock’s side to find rhythm at training and ride a wave of momentum into their return, rather than adding further disruption to a 23-day break between games.

“It’s a bit unusual to have three weeks off in the middle of a season that’s already pretty short,” Sykes said.

“We were able to take a few days off to refresh and reset, and we hit the track pretty hard this week. In the lead in to January we can really work hard and try to improve our fitness for the next half of the season.

“I’ve still been doing gym and deadlifting, since I’ve been injured I’ve needed a bit more work but everyone else was back on the field.

“[Friday] was the first on-field conditioning and running session I’ve had since the injury so it all went well, which is promising. I’ll just keep building and make sure I am fit and ready to go for the 7th.”

Sixth-placed Canberra will look to ignite their campaign with back-to-back home games against Adelaide United and the Western Sydney Wanderers.