A new found defensive focus is set to be Rockdale City Suns recipe for success as they set out to be the National Premier Leagues NSW finals giant killers, according to club captain Daniel Petkovski.
Rockdale claimed a shock 2-0 win against Blacktown City in last week’s elimination final to set up a clash with league favourites APIA Leichhardt Tigers in week two of the play-offs.
Despite a horror start to the season, Rockdale turned it around after round twelve to sneak into the finals with a fifth place finish
Central defender Petkovski revealed his side felt they have paid the price for their attack at all costs mentality at times this season, and have looked to take a more conservative approach as they push for a grand final berth.
“Defensively we were very poor to start the season and I think collectively we just weren’t working hard enough when we didn’t have possession,” Petkovski said.
“Rockdale as a club has always been about playing attacking football no matter what. So much so that a narrow 1-0 victory didn’t mean as much as winning 5-4.
“We’ve really had to change our mindset over the back half of this season because we were struggling so much defensively.”
“The defensive players have been working with the attacking players to make sure we are all working as a unit and putting in as much effort when we don’t have the ball as we do when we are in possession.”
A clean sheet in last week’s elimination final win was an important part of Rockdale’s development, according to Petkovski.
And while The Suns have one of the more difficult paths to the grand final ahead of them due to their fifth place finish, the former Sydney FC youth player believes the fact they are underdogs puts them at a significant advantage.
“Outside of the goals we have set for ourselves, there is very little pressure on the team in this finals series,” he said.
“Rockdale isn’t just in the finals to make up the numbers but we also know that after the season we have had and the way we snuck into fifth spot that nobody expects us to be there on grand final day let alone win the title.
“This means we are free to play our own game and I think it played a big factor in the win against blacktown.”
Against APIA Rockdale will once again come into the game as underdogs, but Petkovski is confident the physical and emotional toll of their opponent’s finals and FFA Cup matches could prove to be a weakness.
“I was happy to see APIA’s incredible win against Melbourne Victory but it was a bit bittersweet for Rockdale as we know they will come into Saturday’s game with new found confidence,” he said.
“APIA has played a lot of high intensity football with the same players in a short space of time and they will need to back up again and try to maintain that same intensity against us.
“In saying all that our focus will be on our own game and making sure we can keep our championship aspirations alive with a good performance both in attack and in defence.”