Ramon Falzon is hoping Perth SC have timed their charge just right as the National Premier Leagues WA season heads into the final five rounds.
The Azzurri were 10 points off the top and in sixth spot after going down 2-0 to Perth Glory in Round 14.
But a run of six wins and a draw from their past seven matches has seen the 2016 champions move into second spot and four points behind leaders Glory.
In the past fortnight they have defeated two teams who were above them, Cockburn City and Bayswater City, and this weekend travel to Balcatta in Round 22.
“We are always planning to collect as many points as we can in the second (half of the season), that’s where leagues are usually won,” Falzon said.
“We have been pushing very hard and credit to the boys, they have been performing very well on a consistent basis. It doesn’t come as a surprise that from the last 21 available points we have picked up 19.”
Perth suffered a mid-season dip which put a question mark over their championship credentials but Falzon explained: “The good teams, the teams that are going to be up there at the end of the season, get out of that slump quickly. We didn’t come out of it as quickly as I would have liked to but the reaction from the boys since has been fantastic.
“Last week (against Bayswater) we knew it was a do-or-die clash for us to get into that second spot. For the last two months we’ve been just aiming to creep up and get into that second spot so we can just focus on winning our games and hoping that the only team above us drops points.”
Falzon says having two teams certain to go down – possibly three, depending on who finishes top of State League Division One – has given a competitive edge to every match.
“It’s not a normal season compared to what we are used to in the past few years,” he said.
“The number of spots that opened up in terms of relegation, you’re not finding the usual four or five teams that midway through the season they are safe, they don’t have the opportunity for top four, so they just cruise along. You have the top six teams fighting to get in the top four, you’ve got six teams fighting against relegation, it keeps the interest up and it will probably keep it up until the end of the season.”
Saturday’s opponents Balcatta looked in serious trouble earlier this month. But three victories in four matches have moved them three points and three places above the relegation zone.
Falzon added: “They are a tough side, Balcatta. They’ve had oscillating results. They’ve gone from some impressive wins to some weird losses. I think they run hot and cold, it depends on the day. We obviously don’t know if they are going to be hot on Saturday so our assumption is they are.”
With the Azzurri right on their coattails, leaders Perth Glory will want to make sure they don’t slip up at home to Stirling Lions on Sunday.
Cockburn City, in third, are at Sorrento while Bayswater City go to in-form Floreat Athena having lost their last five.
Joondalup United, who are already down, are playing for pride against local rivals ECU Joondalup, while second bottom Subiaco might be hoping Armadale are preoccupied with their upcoming FFA Cup trip to Cairns when they meet at Rosalie Park.
Forrestfield United, who are third from bottom, are at home to Inglewood United on Saturday night.
Saturday, July 28
Floreat Athena v Bayswater City (E&D Litis Stadium, 3pm)
ECU Joondalup v Joondalup United (ECU Football Stadium, 3pm)
Balcatta v Perth SC (Grindleford Reserve, 3pm)
Sorrento v Cockburn City (Percy Doyle Reserve, 3pm)
Subiaco v Armadale (Rosalie Park, 3pm)
Forrestfield United v Inglewood United (Wildlife Safari Stadium, 3pm)
Sunday, July 29
Perth Glory v Stirling Lions (Ashfield Arena, 3pm)