Sydney has ruthless mindset for semi-final
IT'S the game that could make or break Sydney FC's season, despite all the records that have been broken along the way.
Yet Sky Blues centre-half Alex Wilkinson believes his side's accumulation of statistical highs has prepared them for the tension of a sudden-death semifinal on Saturday night, with the winner through to the grand final but the loser's season over.
Though Sydney failed in their bid to go through the season undefeated, thanks to a solitary derby loss, their pursuit of a record points tally culminated in a last-round win over Newcastle that took to that target by a single point.
Wilkinson said that his side was now used to the level of expectation their season has created, forging a ruthless mindset for their semi-final.
"There's been pressure all along the way as people have watched us lining up new targets," he said.
"There was pressure even in that last game against Newcastle because we were going for the record and failing to win would have been a major disappointment after coming so close.
"It was something we'd been striving for in the last seven or eight weeks, and every win took us closer but increased the pressure to keep it going.
"That was a good dress rehearsal of the pressure conditions we will face in the semifinal on Saturday night. I'm confident we will perform, because we have constantly through the season.
"We've given every opponent the respect they deserve but we've also beaten every team, and as always our focus is on the way we want to play.
"The Premier's Plate is forgotten now and we're into a separate competition. We've won one of the titles up for grabs but now we want the other one."
Wilkinson confirmed the gradual return to fitness of Milos Ninkovic, after the Serbian playmaker and favourite to be the league's player of the year was injured in that win over Newcastle.
"After the game he was a bit sore and sorry from what was a pretty bad tackle," he said. "But the week off we get for finishing top has been a blessing in that it has allowed him to recover at his own pace and not try to rush it.
"The has been no pressure to come back too quickly, and he should be fine for Saturday."