An angry halftime speech from coach Mark Rudan helped the Wellington Phoenix create history in their come-from-behind 3-2 win over a 10-man Central Coast Mariners on Saturday.
Things were looking grim for Rudan's Phoenix at halftime as they trailed 2-0 against the winless Mariners, thanks to goals from Matt Simon and Andrew Hoole in front of a season-high 10,186 spectators at Westpac Stadium.
But the Phoenix came out firing in the second half with Roy Krishna scoring twice from the penalty spot, before setting up David Williams' match-winner in the 65th minute to secure all three points and set a new club record by going eight matches without a defeat, in captain Andrew Durante's 300th A-League appearance.
On top of that, the Phoenix now have more wins this season (six) after 13 games, compared to last season where they won just five in 27 matches.
"We didn't start well at all, and that was a constant theme over the past couple of days," said Rudan.
"We've spoken about how well they've started in the past five or six games, when they've taken it to teams who have got an early lead, or they've really put pressure on teams, so we needed to match up in that regard, especially in terms of intensity.
"You probably didn't want to be there at halftime. I don't normally do that either, but they needed a bit of a wake-up call.
"It wasn't about putting my foot down and being tougher in terms of my tone, it was also tactical and by making the change and positional movements in the second half certainly worked a treat, but that is coaching and what I get paid to do.
"I don't work for records, but they are nice and one thing the players wanted to do this season was create history, and before the game I told them they have the ability to knock off one piece of history and they did that."
The win consolidates the Phoenix's spot in the A-League's top six as the midway point of the season approaches. They hold a 10-point buffer over the seventh-placed Newcastle Jets, so the odds of ending a four-season finals drought are looking possible.
But they have a very tough schedule over the next five weeks, with six of their next seven matches coming against the four teams above them on the standings.
They face the Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC twice, with matches against Melbourne City, Perth Glory and the Jets also coming up.
But Rudan isn't daunted by the prospect of the potentially season-defining schedule as they have picked up points against the Jets (2-1), Victory (1-1), Sydney (3-1) and Perth (1-1) this season, with the latter three happening during their eight-game unbeaten run.
"We'll take anyone on. We don't fear anyone.
"Against Perth, we took the lead, didn't beat us. Sydney, we beat them away from home, Melbourne Victory, we took it all the way and should've won that.
"Melbourne City (0-2) are the only team above us who we've played and they've beaten us, but we're a different team now.
"It is a tough schedule coming up, but the only one I'm thinking about right now is our next game against the Victory (January 20)."