Popovic: Still room for improvement
The Wanderers surged to a fourth straight win, with Mark Bridge’s classy 85th-minute strike handing them a 2-1 triumph over Wellington on Saturday.
“We’re delighted we’ve won four in a row but as a coach you’re never satisfied,” Popovic said afterwards.
“If I say today probably wasn’t our best with the ball, then we still are a fair bit off where we want to be…in terms of fitness as well.
“You’ve got players that are coming back from injury. Alberto who hasn’t played for a few weeks and it’s just his second completed game out of seven.
“So you envisage he will get even stronger and the communication at the back will improve. There’s a lot of room for improvement but you have to be happy when you win at home and it’s four in a row.”
The Wanderers went in front inside the first 10 minutes through Italian marquee Federico Piovaccari after superb lead-up work by Bridge.
Phoenix drew level soon after through Muscat and while the home side dominated for large periods, it seemed like a draw would be the end result.
But Bridge had other ideas, pouncing on some slack defending at a corner to slam home his second goal in as many games.
“That’s just his second start this year after a long injury in the pre-season and we expect him to only get better,” Popovic said of Bridge.
“He did great for the first goal setting up Piovaccari for a simple tap in and then the composure in the 85th minute, when I’m sure he felt fatigued, is the sign of the confidence and quality he has.”
The Wanderers made a concerted effort in the off-season to change their playing style, making a host of changes in personnel to help with the transition.
While the club received some criticism in the early rounds for their lack of results, Popovic said he never felt external pressure to get immediate success.
Asked if this winning streak was vindication, Popovic said: “I don’t need vindication or seek that.
“As a club we know where we’re heading. The Chairman, the CEO, the board, everyone’s on the same page. We know where we want to be and the vision we have for the club.
“Where we finish at the end of the year is where we deserve to be and if we’ve shown improvements in what we’ve been working on to evolve this club then we’ll be delighted.
“When we had our poor run at the start in terms of results we said we wanted to challenge for honours. That doesn’t change, we’ve put ourselves in a decent position at the start of the season but we’re not even a third of the way through the season so a lot of challenges to come.”