Wanderers Captain Mitchell Duke has fired a warning to rival teams, declaring the Red & Black will only get better as the season gets longer.
Duke led by example, scoring both goals in the 2-1 win over Central Coast Mariners that ensured it was a successful return to Wanderland for the club in their opening game of the Hyundai A-League season.
The Wanderers found themselves a goal down after 36 minutes but Duke scored with a header just on half time to get the Red & Black back on level terms before he showed great calm to slot home a penalty with 10 minutes to go.
Western Sydney went into the game minus several players through injury while the likes of Duke, Alex Meier, and Matt Jurman had an interrupted pre-season either through injury or having signed late with the club.
“That was my first 90 minutes in 10 weeks and my first competitive game for long time,” said Duke.
“It was hard mentally and physically to prepare and I felt it definitely at around the 60 minutes mark.
“Some of us were very much underdone. Quite a few boys came in late or had not played for a long time and will need a bit of time to adjust.
“Once we get that match fitness you will see a different team.
“But, the most important thing now in the first few rounds is to get those three points, as ugly as it (the performance) might be.”
Duke said he was always confident about taking the penalty and converting it despite the long delay while the VAR looked at the incident.
“My thought was just to do the job, hit the net - that’s pretty standard,” said Duke.
“I needed to stay focussed knowing how important it was to get the job done. I was always confident.”
Duke praised assistant coach Labinot Haliti for his role in his first goal. Duke was perfectly positioned for a corner with a well directed header that squeezed in at the near post.
“It was a functional set piece by Labi Haliti and he was confident as well. He said “mate you’ll be scoring plenty of goals off set pieces, I’m calling it already," explained Duke.
“He said to make sure if I scored off a set piece to have a look at him but I was a bit too frustrated that we were down 1-0 and I forgot.
“Labi is doing a great job and has got the boys knowing exactly where to be on set pieces, so we will be a big threat because we have a lot of big boys in me, Alex (Meier), Matt (Jurman) and Dylan (McGowan).”