Wellington all but dashed Western’s finals hopes on Saturday but coach Mark Rudan has encouraged his players not to give up the fight.
Western United coach Mark Rudan has called upon his squad to play for pride as their finals hopes hang by a thread heading into the final three games.
After falling 3-0 to the Wellington Phoenix and succumbing to their sixth straight game without a win, Western currently sit six points outside the top-six and will need to win all three games plus obtain some help in order to make the finals.
With players coming off-contract and a slew of youngsters performing for their NPL side, Rudan said changes may be imminent and has no hesitation to play the kids in the final three games.
“Look, it’s three games to go for us, nine points up for grabs and I sat here last week saying the same thing,” Rudan said post-game.
“Obviously, we didn’t win the game so it’s tough, some players have to stand up and play for a bit of pride now.
“We have got to finish off the season well and there’s quite a few bodies coming off contract and if I have to play the young players … you saw young Adisu (Bayew) come on and I thought he did OK and there’s going to be a lot more of them.”
United have endured a difficult schedule over their winless run which has seen them play all throughout Australia and across the Tasman in little over a month.
Rudan believes the arduous run of away games was a “turning point” in the season and has been hard for his players to bounce back from.
“We were right in the mix, we were in the six with games in hand and then there’s five games in fifteen days away from home,” Rudan said.
“It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact, no other team had to do what we did and like I said that was a turning point.
“You try and keep the boys positive and in a good frame of mind and make sure they recover well but it was almost impossible,
“We were on the up, 0-0 in Adelaide after 60 minutes had a goal disallowed, the game is about momentum and we certainly on the wrong end of that one and then we lost last minute with the last kick against Brisbane … it was pretty hard to come back from that.”
Playing in-front of a 24,105 strong Wellington crowd who welcomed back the Phoenix with a boisterous reception and by being an ex-coach of the side, Rudan said he knew what his side were in for.
“I’ve been on the right end of that crowd as well,” Rudan said.
“I know how important they are and I spoke to the players before the game to silence the crowd by frustrating them with the ball and not giving them chances,
“I thought we did a good job of that until the goal.”
Western United hosts Melbourne Victory on Friday night at AAMI Park before taking on Macarthur three nights later at the same venue.