A-League: Wellington Phoenix coach Mark Rudan demanding more despite streak

  • 09/01/2019

Despite extending their unbeaten streak to seven matches, Wellington Phoenix coach Mark Rudan is demanding more from his improving squad, as the A-League season approaches the midway point.

The 'Nix' scored a 3-2 away win at the Western Sydney Wanderers on Tuesday, sparked by a two-goal performance from striker Roy Krishna.

That result lifts the New Zealand club to fifth - on track for a first final appearance since 2015.

But Rudan isn't satisfied yet, with the former A-League winning skipper frustrated at leaking two soft goals and allowing the home side to dominate large parts of the game.

"We didn't play particularly well tonight," he said afterwards. "We conceded two goals from set piece, so I'm not very happy about that and we gave away far too much possession.

"But in terms of everything else - the result and all of that - I am pretty content.

"There is still a long way to go. For us, it's about building to where we can get to this season."

The 43-year-old wouldn't be drawn on where he sees his side finishing in April, but given the excellent results of the last two months, missing the playoffs would be a huge disappointment

The Phoenix have secured away draws against league heavyweights Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United, while a 3-1 win at Sydney FC was the catalyst for the season turning around.

The Phoenix have found their scoring boots in the last seven games, but their success has been built on their defence. English import Steven Taylor and veteran Andrew Durante has formed one of the best central defences in the league.

But for Rudan, another recruit deserves the plaudits.

Goalkeeper Filip Kurto has been outstanding this season. Despite missing two games through injury, the Polish stopper has added a sense of calm at the back that has been missing in recent seasons.

Kurto pulled off a game-changing save in the 81st minute against the Wanderers, denying former Phoenix midfielder Roly Bonevacia a goal that would have given the home side the lead.

Krishna scored the first of his two goals less than a minute later.

Rudan has been impressed by Kurto's traditional style of goalkeeping.

"He's been simply fantastic, not just today, but for the whole season," Rudan told media on Tuesday night.

"I was pretty adamant that I wanted a good goalkeeper. There is a lot of talk about what a goalkeeper should look like in modern football, but I am a little bit old school in terms of the type of skill-set I look for in my goalkeeper.

"I want a keeper who, put simply, can stop the ball from going in the back of the net.

"They wear gloves for a reason. I think the game has gone way too far down the other way in terms of trying to play out from the back and making sure they are good with the feet.

"I want a goalkeeper who is solid, who communicates and who prevents the ball from going in the back of the net on those one vs one situations like we saw tonight.

"He was huge again tonight."

Rudan unleashed newest signing Cillian Sheridan in the second half against Wanderers. The 29-year-old Irishman played a gorgeous pass to Krishna that led to a goal.

Sheridan comes with pedigree, having played for his country in 2010, as well as stints at Celtic and CSKA Sofia.

But he is unlikely to be the last January signing. Rudan said the Phoenix were still on the hunt for some suitable reinforcements.

"We are still talking to a few players," Rudan revealed. "Sometimes these things take time.

"With the little cash that we have got, we have made good use of it. We have got a lot of these guys at a cut price.

"They have bought into what we are trying to achieve here - it's important that they come here for the right reasons.

"I want good, stern honest people at this football club and you can see that right now in this squad - the togetherness of this squad is one of the best I have ever worked with."

The Phoenix will look to break a club record and go eight games unbeaten against bottom-of-the-table Central Coast Mariners at home on Saturday night.


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