Tony Popovic is confident his players won't buckle under the added pressure as Western Sydney prove they are title contenders.
Tony Popovic is confident his players won't buckle under the added pressure as Western Sydney continued to prove they are A-League title contenders with a gutsy win over Melbourne Heart on Saturday night.
The Wanderers played more than 75 minutes with 10-men following Jerome Polenz's early sending off but still had too much quality for the Heart, winning 1-0 at Parramatta Stadium.
The win has moved the competition new-comers up to third on the ladder and all-but assures them of a finals berth in their debut season.
But the quality of their recent performances has many tipping the Wanderers to go even further and despite trying to play things down, Popovic said his squad can handle the hype.
"I don't have to protect anyone," Popovic said when asked if he would try and shield his players from all the praise.
"There will always be views and opinions on how a team is going whether it's good or bad but these players can handle that.
"And then if you finish in the six you have a chance at the title.
"That's how the format is this year, there's no second chance for first and second.
"So a team that comes six has an opportunity to win it, so if we're in that six we've got as good a chance as anyone."
Especially if they keep performing like they did against the Heart.
Despite playing the majority of the match one man down, the Wanderers still made all the running and could have won by more if not for a superb performance by Heart goal-keeper Andrew Redmayne.
Popovic believes the way his side responded to Polenz's dismissal proves how much they have developed and improved since the season began.
"We've had a few games now where we've played with 10 men and we did it well (tonight)," the Wanderers boss said.
"That's another first for us. The boys have shown that down to 10 men, they're not just going gung-ho.
"They're playing with structure and playing with belief and confidence.
"You could see at half-time in the change room, they really believed they could win the game. It wasn't just hope."
While they created numerous opportunities, the contest was decided by Shinji Ono's penalty 17 minutes from time.
Asked if he feared his side's dominance was going to go unrewarded before Ono struck, Popovic said: "It seemed like it was going that way but it's also hard to be disappointed when you dominate a game with 10 men.
"You've just got to believe it will come.
"But I certainly would have been proud after the game whether we won or lost that one."
The Wanderers travel to Adelaide next weekend to take on the fourth-placed Reds.