Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic refuses to think about the prospect of claiming the Premiers Plate despite moving within two wins of the prize.
The Wanderers 2-1 victory over Wellington Phoenix on Sunday – in front of the club’s third largest attendance – was a record-beating ninth win on the trot for the league new boys.
Having moved top last week for the first time in their short history, the Wanderers continued to exact full toll on the Mariners after their rivals crashed to a 2-0 defeat against Sydney FC on Saturday.
The Wanderers now need to accrue just five points over their remaining three outings to be guaranteed of finishing first in their debut A-League campaign.
Popovic, however, continues to maintain his season-long mantra that winning the next game is their only focus.
“We have taken a step closer being five points in front with three games to go, but certainly the job is not done,” he said.
“While it is mathematically possible, of course they (the Mariners) are (still in it). If it wasn’t, we would be celebrating right now.
“There is still some work to be done, and this group knows that.”
Despite entertaining the league’s bottom side on their own turf, the Wanderers were forced to work overtime to maintain their winning run on a bumpy surface.
Penalties early in each half from Shinji Ono and Mark Bridge were sandwiched either side of a Jeremy Brockie goal for the visitors.
“Today wasn’t our best but in patches you could see some good football there,” Popovic said.
“And hopefully we will extend those periods of good play, and keep that defensive resilience.
“It was really tough conditions. It was difficult to play and both sets of players were not confident with their feet and balance on that pitch.
“We played some decent passages in patches and that resulted in the second goal, following some good football. We had to grind it out at times and I think we did quite well.”
The win ensured the Wanderers surpassed Melbourne Victory’s previous record mark of eight wins in succession.
While pleased with the club’s achievements, Popovic again remained typically low key about the milestone.
“It (the nine-match winning streak) is difficult to do anywhere around the world,” he said. “To win nine in a row is quite special.
“Like everything at this club, we will reflect at the end of the year on a great milestone, and there have been many this year. But we have not achieved anything yet.”
Popovic substituted Ono at half-time saying it was a precautionary measure, with the marquee man experiencing tightness in his hamstring.
Bigger games loom now for the Wanderers with a top-two finish guaranteed after the win.
“We have secured a top two spot, which is a great achievement for this club and something we are very proud of,” Popovic said.
“These fans deserve a big game at this stadium.”
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