Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic is beginning to plan a finals campaign after beating Newcastle Jets to notch a fifth consecutive win.
Usually reluctant to look further than a week ahead, the Wanderers boss allowed himself a peep at the upcoming draw as the red and blacks moved into rarefied air at the pointy end of the table with a 2-1 win on Saturday.
They are now second on the A-League table, four points behind leaders Central Coast and looking to close the gap fast.
“We’ve got Melbourne Victory away, Perth at home and Central Coast away,” Popovic said of the next three rounds.
“They are real games to look forward to. I’m sure after the next three games we’ll definitely know how high we can finish.
“It’s a great time to be a player right now and be part of this club.”
The Wanderers could be in touching distance of the Mariners by the time they meet in round 23.
A minor premiership in the club’s inaugural season would be a remarkable achievement and Popovic’s team is embracing the challenge.
He said: “The table doesn’t lie. We’ve won five in a row and 20 games in (to the season) we’re second.
“We deserve to be there if you’re there after 20 matches.
“There are some big games coming up now and it can change quite quickly.
“And if it does change we want it to change in a positive way for us.”
The Wanderers scored goals either side of half-time to open up a 2-0 lead over Newcastle before an injury time goal handed the Jets a potential lifeline.
But anything other than a Western Sydney win would have been a travesty after they controlled the match for large parts.
Popovic said: “It’s a crucial three points. I think it was a very good performance and we continue a great run.”
Newcastle’s first half was ordinary but they showed a lot more enterprise after the break.
Coach Gary Van Egmond labelled his team’s display ‘okay’ but admitted the Jets are lacking a proven goal scorer to partner big Emile Heskey up front.
“We had some good opportunities to score but didn’t take advantage,” he said.
“They were by far the better team in the first half and we arrested a few issues in the second half and were more in control of the game.
“We’re just lacking that killer punch in the front third.”
Newcastle could find themselves edged out of the top six by the end of the weekend.