Western United is frustrated, but not panicked, after falling to consecutive A-League losses for the first time.
United coach Mark Rudan pointed to his side’s dominance in general play in one-goal defeats to Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners over the past two rounds as a source for optimism.
“Those two narrow losses, if you look at both games in isolation, I think the first 30 minutes against Newcastle, we weren’t at our best, we rectified that and absolutely annihilated them in the second half and did everything but score,” he said.
“Exactly the same in this one [against Central Coast], apart from a deflection [on the Mariners goal], they hadn’t had a shot [on target] I don’t think.
“Everybody saw the kind of team that we are, sometimes they go for you, sometimes it doesn’t go for you, but I’m extremely proud of the players, their effort, the way they kept fighting to get themselves back into the game.
“The attitude is first class, the character of the team is brilliant.”
Western United’s finishing was the issue in its 1-0 loss to Central Coast Mariners in Gosford on Sunday evening.
United had the ball camped in their attacking third for most of the game, but could not unlock the Mariners defence.
The most clear-cut chance of the game fell to Panagiotis Kone in the first half, but he put a perfectly weighted ball from Alessandro Diamanti over the crossbar from close range.
The chances continued to come for United with Besart Berisha tipping a shot over the crossbar and then powering a header straight into the arms of Central Coast goalkeeper Mark Birighitti. Diamanti had a number of half-chances that he might have buried on another day.
While United would have liked their time over again with a number of their missed chances, Rudan paid credit to the discipline of the Mariners, who were desperate to win their first game at home this season.
“They fought hard, they battled hard and they kept their zero,” he said.
“I need to give them due respect as well because they fought extremely hard to get that win.”
Rudan was ropable about two VAR decisions that went against Western United late in the second half.
The first contentious decision came when United substitute Dylan Pierias whipped in a cross which hit the trailing arm of Mariners defender Ziggy Gordon.
Gordon’s arm appeared to be struck in an unnatural position, but the video assistant ruled play on.
The next vociferous call for VAR intervention from the Western United coaches came when United winger Connor Pain fired a shot on target, which hit the out-stretched arm of Mariners goalscorer Giancarlo Gallifuoco.
Rudan voiced his displeasure at both calls that went against his side and called on the A-League to explain how they came to the decisions.
“I’m not going to swear like my colleague [Western Sydney coach Markus Babbel] on Friday night did, but I’m right behind him and I’m right behind all the other coaches that have been on the wrong side [of VAR],” Rudan said.
“I’d love a please explain.
“If you want to look at us as a football club, not one VAR decision has gone our way this year.”
Diamanti was the pick of the Western United players, serving up some delicious passes in the first half.
Dario Jertec worked hard both ways, kick-starting United’s attack from defensive midfield and ensuring little got through him.
Josh Risdon was full of energy on the right side, while Kwabena Appiah-Kubi was lively on the front line.
Fifth-placed Western United will confront its toughest test yet when reigning champions Sydney FC visit GHMBA Stadium in Geelong on Sunday at 4pm.