Talking points: Can Krishna fire Phoenix to Hyundai A-League silverware?
Giving Roy Krishna a pre-season cuddle could prove to be Mark Rudan’s greatest act as Wellington Phoenix coach.
This early vote of confidence has fuelled a record-breaking campaign for the Fijian striker and the team he continues to fire up the table in thrilling fashion.
The latest milestone occasion for Krishna and Phoenix came in the 8-2 demolition of Central Coast Mariners on Saturday evening, where Krishna registered his fifth two-goal haul of the campaign.
He has now scored 14 goals for the season, surpassing his previous best-ever tally of 12 from two seasons ago. With seven games to go in the regular season, Krishna looks primed to break Jeremy Brockie’s 2012/13 club record of 16.
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Rudan set the bar high for his prized forward in a frank pre-season conversation, and the faith the coach has invested in the 31-year-old since arriving across the Tasman has been handsomely repaid.
Records have tumbled and expectations have been re-set at Krishna’s behest this season, with Saturday’s drubbing of the Mariners offering another reminder of how far the New Zealanders have come under Rudan’s tutelage.
“He was one of the first I gave a big hug to when I came to the club,” Rudan said.
“I told him just how important he was going to be and we were going to work hard to get the best out of him.
“That’s where he’s heading towards, but there’s more to come.”
With Krishna in this kind of form, and the supporting cast of Sarpreet Singh and David Williams contributing too, Phoenix’s emergence as Hyundai A-League dark horses should only continue to gain in momentum.
What next for the Mariners?
With coach Mike Mulvey sacked and a third wooden spoon in four seasons swiftly approaching, the Mariners find themselves back at square one after Saturday’s trouncing.
That defeat was the rock-bottom moment of another grim campaign for the Gosford club, but after Saturday night’s storm, fans and players will be relishing a fresh start.
Nothing should motivate the Yellow and Navy more than a looming F3 Derby against Newcastle Jets this Saturday, a chance for Central Coast to draw a line in the sand.
And in their time of hurt, the Mariners might just draw inspiration from how their fierce rivals responded to finishing the 2016/17 campaign at the bottom of the pile before going on to make the Grand Final the following year.
Wanderers win tinged with regret
There is an emerging sense of 'what might have been' coming out of Western Sydney Wanderers.
The Red and Black continued their recent resurgence with a convincing 4-1 win over Brisbane Roar on Friday night.
Markus Babbel’s side are beginning to click, and with three wins from their last four matches the more optimistic of supporters are starting to dream of a late run to the finals.
And had the German’s side been able to reduce their goals-against column, there is a strong chance Western Sydney would be among among this campaign's leading contenders.
Only the top three - Perth Glory, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory - have scored more goals than the Wanderers total of 34 so far this season.
It makes the series of painful late collapses the club endured over the course of the campaign even more difficult to stomach.
The king is dead. Long live the king
There was a pervading sense of despair around the Queensland capital when Brisbane Roar lost top gun Adam Taggart to Suwon Bluewings in February.
But Dylan Wenzel-Halls has gone some way to lifting the mood at Suncorp Stadium ever since.
The former NPL Queensland sensation has scored in back-to-back matches following Taggart’s exit, and after the latter's sensational form kept Wenzel-Halls on the bench for the opening stage of the season, the 21-year-old has now racked up four consecutive 90-minute performances.
He fired in a spectacular opening goal against the Wanderers in Friday's defeat - his fourth of the season - reminding fans that Roar's striking future looks to be in safe hands.