THERE'S an old English saying used mainly by people from the north of the country: ''If you can't say anything nice, say nowt.''
Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou has a Greek, not English, background, but in his bluff response after watching his side's uncharacteristically uncompetitive 1-0 loss to Adelaide on Friday night he appeared to be channelling generations of dour Yorkshiremen.
The best he could muster about the performance was the summation that they had ''put in a good shift''. It was damning with faint praise, but it was at least praise of a sort.
There was nothing forthcoming for his adversaries, who went out of their way to rough up Victory with a series of heavy challenges, fouls and physical niggles from the outset.
While new Adelaide boss Mike Valkanis - who distinguished himself by being sent from the technical area by referee Jarred Gillett in the first half of only his second match in charge - found plenty to like about his side's ''commitment'', ''passion'' and ''desire'', Postecoglou's take was that it was a game of little entertainment that should be best forgotten.
''Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I just don't think it was a great game. It was a disruptive game; that's not how I want my football. I might be in the minority in that,'' he said in a voice that did little to mask his displeasure at what was a rough-house encounter.
Adelaide was smarting after a 4-2 home loss to West Sydney a week earlier and Valkanis, who replaced John Kosmina in the run-up to that game, was desperate to get a result.
His side played with a fury and physicality that certainly unsettled Victory, and they appeared to be targeting former Reds playmaker Marcos Flores, who was felled almost every time he got on the ball.
But teams have to be able to take this sort of treatment. Victory usually responds by outplaying its opposition, but on Friday night it could muster little. It certainly missed the leadership and physical contribution of midfield enforcer Mark Milligan, whose late call-up by Holger Osieck for the Socceroos' friendly in Spain on Thursday certainly didn't make a favourable impression at AAMI Park, especially as he only played a handful of minutes.
Archie Thompson's hamstring injury and his departure after half an hour was a major blow, while Marco Rojas, so impressive for most of the season, had a quiet game and offered little threat.
Victory will be hoping Thompson will be back on song for the visit of West Sydney, when Milligan will also be back. One man who won't, however, is Adama Traore, after the left-back was controversially sent off late and will now be suspended even if, as many argue, his offence did not merit a red card.
Postecoglou tried to find some positives in a performance in which Victory did not get an attempt on target until the last 30 seconds of the match.
''Losing Archie early didn't help us either. But with the players we had out there, for the most part it was pretty good,'' he said.
''Archie was under the weather all week. There are still seven games plus finals to go; we didn't want to take unnecessary risks so we took him off.
''It was a decent shift. It wasn't exciting, it wasn't sexy but we still ticked some boxes. I thought our composure was really good.''
He was particularly impressed with his 17-year-old full-back. ''Scott Galloway was just brilliant in that sort of atmosphere, for him to keep his head and his focus and keep trying to do what we have told him to do. Sometimes it doesn't end up in execution or the end result we wanted. Our intent in a hostile environment was pretty good.''
Asked if he thought Adelaide had targeted Flores, Postecoglou reacted sharply.
''You'll have to ask them,'' he said. ''That sort of stuff doesn't interest me, I am not interested in how the opposition might try to stop us. We are trying to be a team that will have the ultimate success this year.''