By Lance Jenkinson
The complexion of Western United’s inaugural A-League season has changed for the better all of a sudden.
Scoring 11 goals in two weeks will do that for you, with massive back-to-back wins elevating United back into the top six.
United coach Mark Rudan heard all the detractors following a loss to Wellington Phoenix three weeks ago, but kept his faith in the playing group and trusted that they would come through better for experiencing a rough patch in the season.
Thumping wins to open March, a 6-2 home thrashing of Central Coast Mariners on the first day of the month, followed by 5-1 hammering of Adelaide United away on Saturday night, has turned United’s season around.
Suddenly, confidence has lifted for United and finals is back on the agenda.
“I’m happy because the players executed the game plan to perfection,” Rudan said.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence and belief in this group.”
Besart Berisha kick-started the five-goal dream for Western United in the city of churches.
In the 18th minute, the veteran striker was the beneficiary of a spectacular team build-up, which started with a diagonal ball from
Alessandro Diamanti that connected with Josh Risdon in stride, who, in turn, squared it to Berisha for a neat finish.
Seven minutes later, Adelaide United was on level terms, when Riley McGree fired past United substitute goalkeeper Ryan Scott, who came on for a concussed Filip Kurto.
It was a crossroads moment in the match for Western United.
Rudan was pleased with his side’s response.
“We’ve been working on our mindset and making sure we turn on and switch on again [after conceding a goal], that it’s not the end of the world and we continue playing positive football,” he said.
“They flicked that switch, they stayed positive and we were able to get that second and third [goals in the first half] and that was important.” Western United scored two goals in six minutes before half-time to wrestle back control.
Alessandro Diamanti found himself in space in the 32nd minute after he was put in by a Max Burgess through ball and tucked home from close range.
Burgess, a hat-trick hero last week, found the back of the net himself in the 38th minute, scoring with a header.
After 44 games without a goal, the midfielder has four goals in two games and is one of the main reasons why United’s season is no longer on life support.
United put the game well out of reach of the hosts in the second half with goals to winger Connor Pain, three minutes after the resumption of play, and a second to Berisha, in the 56th minute.
Berisha’s goal was assisted by Risdon, who had three assists for the game.
Instead of going into this weekend’s bye counting down the days until the end of the season, Western United is buoyed by its recent form and ready to challenge for a finals berth in their final six games of the season.