While it’s all about the win, we picked up some valuable lessons about our team in the 1-0 victory over Newcastle Jets.
Three priceless points
The Wanderers have never been beaten in Newcastle and that record is one that will remain intact for at least another season after Tony Popovic’s side outlasted a gutsy Jets side.
It wasn’t the best performance of the season from the Red & Black who should have put the contest to bed as early as the first half after a host of chances went begging.
Instead, the Wanderers found themselves in what has been a familiar position this season having not made the most of their dominance. Newcastle spent much of the game hanging on for dear life, but it was the Wanderers in the end who had their backs to the wall in a tetchy final quarter.
On the other hand, it was arguably the quintessential champion’s performance from Western Sydney. Given that results around the Wanderers had not gone their way it added an extra dimension of intrigue to a match that was already of high stakes, and they side coped well with the additional blanket of pressure this provided.
It was billed as a dress rehearsal for a crucial encounter with Adelaide United the following Saturday, a mental test that the Wanderers passed, below-average performance aside. Sometimes, potential champions have to do it the hard way – or as Mark Bridge remarked after the win, grind it out. Results matter over performances at this stage of the season, and there aren’t many other results in writing that scream “stuff of champions” than a nervy, but ultimately well-deserved 1-0 win away from home.
Before the match Tony Popovic called upon his players to build momentum for the final rounds of the season. The Wanderers did exactly that and took a crucial first step in acquiring their second premier’s plate.
Floodgates to open for Sotirio?
There’s so much to like about Jaushua Sotirio and after the twenty-year-old steered home his first goal of the season against the Jets it could be the breakthrough moment both the Wanderers fans and the young Olyroo have been waiting for.
Sotirio had earlier endeared himself to the Wanderers faithful after speaking about his desire to become a first time regular having risen through the club’s youth ranks, ostensibly one of the first in Red & Black to do so.
Now that he has snagged himself a well-deserved match winner, the young forward of just 29 Hyundai A-League caps will be brimming with confidence to match his boundless enthusiasm and energy.
And at a time of the season where goals are valued at a premium, this could have a profound effect on the team.
Reddy’s aggression finally rewarded in first clean sheet in nine
The Wanderers’ last clean sheet came well over three months ago against Adelaide on New Year’s Day – hard to believe for a side who have, since their inception, always remained a difficult side to break down.
Yet, despite such a wait for a clean sheet, the Red & Black still boast the third best defensive record in the competition this season. And they can thank Liam Reddy for ending the wait for a shutout in what was another strong display of goalkeeping from the veteran.
Ironically, the Wanderers have faced a barrage of shots since Reddy’s introduction in round 20 (Reddy has been forced into 3.5 saves per game, Andrew Redmayne averages 1.5 saves per game), but a series of commanding performances has seen the keeper dominate the penalty area with sublime confidence.
Since his Wanderers debut Reddy has made a total of 11 big claims without error, and he once again came up with a crucial claim followed by an important punch late on in the match to quell two Leonardo set-pieces. This kind of proactive, confident goalkeeping was pivotal in defying a Newcastle side who would have viewed the dead ball scenario as the most likely chance of exploiting the Wanderers.
With Reddy in goal, it appears this is no longer the case. It’s been a welcome and understated return to Hyundai A-League action for the new Wanderers custodian. Hopefully, with Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Alberto resuming their partnership in the centre, this will be a performance to build on from a defensive standpoint.
We take on Adelaide United on Saturday at Pirtek Stadium. Tickets are available here for the 7:30pm kick-off.