Newcastle Jets boss Scott Miller praised his side’s scrambling defence in the win over Central Coast Mariners which kept the club’s Hyundai A-League finals hopes alive.
A second half goal to midfielder Steven Ugarkovic was the difference as the Jets won in Gosford for the first time in more than eight years.
And it was a significant three points for the Jets, who are now just four points out of the top six on the back of a four-game unbeaten run.
It seems they are timing their run perfectly to try and sneak into the finals with six games to go.
“Over the last four to five weeks you’re seeing different individuals stepping up, creating opportunities in the final third, the leadership qualities of others and the personality is growing which is great to see,” Miller said.
“It bodes well for next season but we’re certainly not finished [this season]. We’ve got a number of fixtures to go and my mentality and the playing group as well is to put as much pressure on Sydney, Melbourne and Perth as possible.
“My thoughts are simple, we need to win every game,” he added.
“Our philosophy, principles and energy we put into our preparation is to win every game. That’s our mentality from this moment onwards.
The Jets had the better of the first half but failed to get a breakthrough before Ugarkovic pounced on a Josh Rose error to give them the lead 12 minutes after the break.
They then had to absorb some concerted pressure from the Mariners late on to register a valuable win.
“We made it quite challenging for ourselves. I think we should have seen the game out and scored a few more goals,” Miller said.
“But the defensive side of it was a magnificent performance. Not only the back four but the work rate of Mateo [Poljak] and Steven Ugarkovic, the dynamic of that partnership was really pleasing to see in terms of their chance creation and Steven popping up and scoring the winner.
“There a joyous bunch now but it’s a big challenge next week away at Perth. People have been saying our last two games are defining our season, I don’t think that’s true. It’s just another step and it will be an interesting game next week.”
It’s no coincidence the up-turn in Newcastle’s form has come around the same time Leonardo has returned from injury while January transfer window signings Ugarkovic and Morten Nordstrand have been added to the side.
“It provides a lot of competition for spaces so before you pick your team you have got people training to a different level because their positions in the team aren’t guaranteed,” Miller explained.
“Their individual application and belief, but more so their technical ability has been very pleasing to see. It’s a fortunate position we found ourselves in that we can bring players like that to the club because when I first arrived we didn’t have that ability.
“Bringing them in is the easy part, it’s about fitting in to the philosophy and principles and respecting the club and performing.”