Nichols praises Popa influence

Star Western Sydney midfielder Mitch Nichols has paid tribute to Wanderers boss Tony Popovic for driving him to new heights this season.

Nichols notched a new personal record of 10 goals in a Hyundai A-League regular season with the final strike in Wanderers’ comfortable 4-1 win over Central Coast Mariners.

MATCH REPORT: Wanderers pour in four against Mariners

The 26-year-old has been instrumental in his side’s rise to title contention and singled out Popovic as the reason for his off-season move to Pirtek Stadium.

“I knew what Tony was about and (that he was going) to push me and not let me slack off and I needed that,” Nichols told Fox Sports after the match.

“My goal was just to play, I love playing football. I thought I wasn’t playing today and I wasn't happy.

“I just wanted to play football and get back to scoring goals and having fun. That’s what this year’s been about.”

Western Sydney players celebrate one of their four goals against the Mariners at Pirtek Stadium on Friday night.

Friday night’s victory ends a two-match winless run for Wanderers and moves the title challengers into top spot – albeit temporarily – ahead of the final round.

Despite dominating for the entire match, the hosts conceded a soft equaliser midway through the first-half which Nichols identified as a recurring issue. 

“It’s probably been our story over the last five or six weeks that we switched off, started playing the ball slow and we get sucker punched,” Nichols said.

“But full credit to the boys – we worked hard, took our chances and probably could have seven or eight.

“It’s good to get the three points and put ourselves back up top for the weekend.”