The Wanderers have endured a choppy month of form in March but four goals, three points and a pleasing response to last week’s loss to Melbourne Victory has the Red & Black starting the new month in the right manner.Wanderers back on track in Wanderland farewell
The 4-1 triumph over the Mariners was exactly what the side needed to steady the ship ahead of the final round of the campaign and with the finals series nearing.
Ever since the Wanderers first hosted the Central Coast club in their inaugural 2012 fixture the two-time Hyundai A-League Premiers have proved to be a stern opponent with Wanderland holding a series of fiery and hard-fought contests between the two rivals.
Friday’s encounter might not have lived up to that particular reputation but it was an accomplished evening nonetheless for Tony Popovic’s side.
Of course, the Wanderers could still make a final bow at their home ground should the side secure a home final.
Popovic warns against complacency
Although the fate of Friday’s match never truly looked in doubt, the moment in which the visiting Mariners equalised shortly after Romeo Castelen had opened the scoring will have the Western Sydney boss drilling his ranks in training.
It was the kind of momentary lapse that must be avoided at all costs in the matches of grander stature and meaning that the Wanderers are set to embark on.
“We had a little period where we got a bit casual and sloppy on the ball and the equaliser was a wakeup call for us,” said Popovic after the match.
“If there were any concerns it was that we switched off there.
“We have to make sure we don’t do that in the games to come”.
Popovic plays trump card
Having made just one start prior to Friday night’s match, the sight of Brendon Santalab leading the line from the opening whistle was one remarkably unfamiliar in the context of the striker’s season and met with surprise from many.
In a delicate positional re-shift of Popovic’s attacking quartet, Santalab’s inclusion at the point of the attack reaped considerable reward with Mark Bridge re-stationed on his favoured left side, Romeo Castlen occupying the right and Mitch Nichols roaming across the field in typically adventurous fashion from the middle.
18 of Santalab’s 20 appearances this season have come from the bench but in making just his second start the Wanderers may just have found the spark needed to reinvigorate their frontline ahead of the season’s pointy end.
The super-sub, as Tony Popovic himself revealed after the match, “knocks on his door every day” at training and with a goal every 62 minutes in the competition this season, it makes one wonder where the Wanderers would be if Santalab had just a handful more matches under his belt.
Who’s number one?
If Santalab was one surprising half of Popovic’s team selection, the other was undoubtedly the return of Andrew Redmayne in goal.
“We have two good keepers,” remarked the Wanderers boss after the match.
“It was a chance to give Andrew another game and I thought he did well.
“There’s nobody fixed in their position, they need to earn it I thought from what we’ve seen Andrew has been excellent in training, they push each other every day.”
Despite only one round of the regular season remaining it seems both Red & Black glovemen are still fiercely battling over the number one jersey with each player offering a different variety of attributes.
Liam Reddy has wasted no time in reminding the competition of his status as one of the league’s most reliable shot-stoppers but Redmayne’s ability to build sequences of possession from deep in the Wanderers half may see the former Melbourne City man favoured again in the coming weeks.
Either way, it’s pleasing to see both keepers kept on their toes in this way and comforting to know both Redmayne and Reddy can be interchanged with minimal fuss.