Brendon Santalab expects a few more twists and turns in the race for the Hyundai A-League premiership but says Western Sydney Wanderers are up for the fight from the challengers below.
Heading into the final six rounds of the season, the Wanderers have a two point lead from Adelaide United at the top of the table, with Brisbane Roar a point further back.
It makes for an intriguing run-in towards the end of the season, starting with Friday night’s clash between the Wanderers and Roar at Suncorp Stadium.
Roar v Wanderers: 3 key match ups
“It’s very tight up top. There’s pressure on every week and a big six games coming up,” the Wanderers striker told reporters on Wednesday.
“Brisbane, ourselves and Adelaide are looking to fight for the Premiers Plate. There could be a few twists and turns in the final six games but one we’re prepared for.
“It’s a massive game [on Friday night],” Santalab added.
“It’s more pressure on Brisbane I feel with their big loss to Adelaide last week and also the week before against Perth.
“We go into the game with a lot of confidence, especially from our win against Perth.”
Santalab played a pivotal role in that win over Glory, coming off the bench to score the late winner, acrobatically flying through the air to get his boot to Mark Bridge’s lofted pass.
Glory boss Kenny Lowe felt the strike should have been disallowed for dangerous play but – unsurprisingly - Santalab didn’t agree.
“As a striker, the ball’s been played through and there’s a goal to be scored. I’m not going to watch the goalkeeper catch it and then run back into position” the 31-year-old fired back.
“I’m going to go for the ball and try and score and that’s what I did. I got to the ball first, had the defender got to the ball first the goal probably wouldn’t have stood. It was a clear goal I feel and one I’m very happy with.
“It was a very important win…to come away with a win and take a very important three points is crucial to our Premiers’ Plate hopes.”
Santalab has proven himself to be a real ace off the bench for the Wanderers this season, with all but one of his 15 appearances as a substitute.
And he’s made a habit of being the hero for the Reds and Blacks, scoring late winners against the Mariners, City and Glory as well as a last-minute equaliser away to Victory.
“My role in the team for now is very clear and that’s coming off the bench. Next week I might be in the starting role,” he said.
“I have to prepare every week like I’m going to start the game. But the role at the moment is very fitting of the way we’re playing.
“The boys that are starting week in week out are doing a fantastic job. I just need to continue playing my role off the bench as good as possible.”