Staj: The challenge now is to keep improving

Mariners Head Coach Alen Stajcic was in no mood to rest on his laurels after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Wellington Phoenix, and believes the next challenge for the Mariners is to keep improving as they sit atop the A-League ladder after eight matches.

Goals to Matt Simon and Oliver Bozanic iced the win against a Phoenix side reduced to 10 men after David Ball’s red card, and the clean sheet was an added bonus after the team conceded six goals across the previous three games, including a loss to the Phoenix.

The win put the Mariners four points clear at the top, albeit with different numbers of matches played, but Staj said the focus now is to target small improvements as the team moves forward.

"The challenge is what it always is, regardless of if you are winning or losing and that is to always get better and improve and make sure we improve our deficiencies and our strengths,” he said post-match on Sunday.

“Today we had that extra layer of professionalism and discipline which I thought was very good which showed a lot of composure and nous to close out the game.”

“I thought our finishing could’ve been a little bit better and we should’ve finished the game off earlier. As good as the performance was, I think there are still some areas to improve upon in the coming weeks.”

In four of the six wins now, the team has kept a clean sheet, already a big improvement on the two kept during last season, and Staj said that the defensive effort is a credit to the whole team and praised the team for getting back to basics after flurry of goals prior.

“It’s all attitude,” he said.

“It’s not just the back 4, it’s not just Birraz, it’s the whole squad. We defend with everyone that comes onto the pitch, it’s all about the attitude they bring to the game and the discipline, and we have shown that more often than not this year.”

“We let it slip a bit last week, there were six or so goals we gave away and seven or eight chances that I thought we lost that little bit of composure we had in those moments, so it was good to be able to get another clean sheet today and show that we can have that discipline and attitude all the way throughout 95 minutes.”

With Adelaide United up next on Friday and a long way to go in the season, he stressed that there is plenty of work to be done as the Mariners begin to face different teams.

“Round 8 is done and there are 18 more rounds to go,” he said.

“The teams have played different matches against different teams so the table isn’t a true reflection so we are not getting carried away with ourselves.”

“I’ll keep saying that for the next 4-6 weeks regardless of whether we are 1st, 2nd 3rd or 4th.

“There is a long way to go and we are now into stride and rhythm of the competition, and I know how much harder we need to work to keep ourselves in finals and championship contention.”

With the team taking on Adelaide away on Friday, Mariners fans are invited to the Legends Taphouse at Mingara to watch the game with fellow fans and cheer on the boys!