Mitch Duke says the regenerated Western Sydney Wanderers are ready to cause a stir in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series after they extended their unbeaten streak to four with an impressive 1-0 win over Sydney FC on Friday night.
The Sky Blues have been virtually unstoppable all season but the Sydney Derby honours have well and truly belonged to the Wanderers, who have handed their local rivals their only two losses of the campaign to date.
Six weeks ago the Wanderers seemed incapable of grinding out a hard-earned win against any opposition in the league but now they’ve notched one over the league’s best, and Duke says Jean-Paul de Marigny’s takeover as caretaker manager has helped the Red and Black unleash their true potential as one of the league’s danger sides.
“We’ve been really focussing on mentality since [de Marigny] has taken over,” Duke told FOX Sports after his 81st-minute headed goal sealed the 1-0 win at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
“He’s kind of just stepped up intensity in training not accepting anything less, and even the foreign boys have stepped up as well which is amazing.
“[Nicolai] Muller, when he’s on his game he’s so important for us as well getting in those pockets and facing forward and driving with the ball.
“Everyone has gotten on board, putting in a massive shift each game and when everyone does their individual job it helps us collectively, and we’re getting it done.
“He’s constantly on your case in training as well so you can’t relax, you can’t sit off the pace otherwise you are going to cop it.
“He’s not afraid to drop you, he’s made that very clear.
“Everyone’s got to perform, otherwise you’re going to lose your spot – that’s the way it’s got to be in professional football.”
De Marigny remains unbeaten as caretaker of the Wanderers, guiding his side to three wins and a draw since his appointment in mid-January.
Their second Sydney Derby win of the season was just as impressive as their 1-0 win at Bankwest Stadium in Round 3 under former boss Markus Babbel; a poor run of form was to follow that victory but Duke doesn’t see the same unfolding after his side’s most recent Sydney Derby triumph, as the Wanderers look to launch into Finals Series contention with just eight rounds to play.
“I think that was the start of the downfall in our season,” said Duke.
“After Round 3 it was like we had a ten-week hangover.
“But I’m glad the boys have started to turn it around the last few weeks, and hopefully we can keep building on our performances.”
The Wanderers moved just two points behind Brisbane Roar in sixth position with the win, setting up a mouth-watering clash with Robbie Fowler’s side at Suncorp Stadium next Friday night.
A win will see de Marigny’s side complete a remarkable resurgence back into the top six, and from there Duke says there’s no limit to what they can achieve by the season’s end.
“We’re starting to creep into finals football and that’s our target,” he said.
“We can really scare teams and [cause] upsets, and if we make it to the finals I think we can go all the way.”