Petkovic embracing Sydney's tough run to finals

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The plain-taking Serbian stopper - whose domineering performances earlier this month earned him a new two-season deal - was the first to admit that Sydney was heading nowhere a few weeks back as the pressure mounted on coach Frank Farina to turn around a slump.

But successive wins have piloted the Sky Blues into fifth spot - and more importantly the side has shown renewed unity as it heads into Saturday night's duel at Bluetongue Stadium with out-of-sorts Central Coast Mariners, who is seeking to avert a fifth successive loss.

"We are looking like a team again, that's the key thing," said Petkovic. "That wasn't the case a few weeks ago. We were playing as individuals, not as a collective unit and it was costing us.

"Everybody was trying to do their own thing, we lacked structure and we were disorganised and we were giving away possession far too easily and were leaking goals which we should have stopped."

Petkovic can't attribute the turnaround - successive wins over Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets - to any specific catalyst but says the team was motivated, above anything to perform for its restless fans and a coach who was cast as a dead man walking by some.

"We really want to put on a show for them between now and the end of the season and reach the grand final, if we can, for them," he added.

"They have stuck by the team and they have had their say on a few things and that's their right. We owe them a lot. We are looking far more compact now - but we can't relax for a moment.

"The challenge is to not slip back again because we have had so many ups and down this season. Confidence was very fragile a few weeks ago and our belief wasn't there at times - but the feeling on the field and the dressing room is different now.

"We still have it all to do but we think we can go far in the finals. We have a great coach in Frank Farina who also deserves the best because he has stuck by us and his tactics and ideas are good.

"We have to make sure we carry out his orders - he can only do so much and the rest is up to us."

Petkovic knows how vital a victory against the Mariners - a point adrift of Sydney in sixth place - could be leading into a catalogue of daunting fixtures which sees the Sky Blues face crosstown rival Western Sydney Wanderers (second position), leader Brisbane Roar and third-placed Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory (fourth) in the five weeks.

And he believes the arrival of experienced Sasa Ognenovski as a defensive partner has added stability to a previously shaky Sky Blues defence.

"Sasa has achieved a lot in his career and proved himself wherever he has gone - and he's still performing at great level," he added.

"He's a big signing for the club and is already making his presence felt."

Of Sydney's imposing schedule, he added: "It doesn't get any harder than that, does it? But we are a big club and we should embrace these big games. It should bring out the best in us and it will show what direction we are heading in - we're looking forward to these big tests.

"A win over Central Coast will keep the momentum going. They have had a tough time of late but everybody knows how resilient they are and it's just a matter of time before they bounce back - hopefully not against us though."

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