New coach Zivko Jovanovski admits he didn’t expect things to turn around at Wollongong United as quickly as they did.
But the former youth grade boss couldn’t have been more pleased with his troops following their form-reversing 2-1 victory over Port Kembla at Wetherall Park on Saturday.
The triumph ended a run of three straight matches without a win for the Fraternity Cup champions and provided Jovanovski with his first win in charge.
Jovanovski was thrust into the position a little more than a week ago when Oliver Vrtkovski stepped outside and tasked with getting the 2015 grand final winner’s season back on track.
“I’ll be honest, we have had a few issues recently and I didn’t think we would turn it around as quick as we have,” Jovanovski said.
“We just weren’t working together as well as we should have been for whatever reason so since I took over for the Albion Park game last week and all throughout this week, we have spoken about it a lot.
“I’ve talked to all the boys to try and get to the bottom of it.
“We had to come together as a group and huge credit to the boys because they did that.”
Both United and Port had everything to play for on Saturday as the battle for the top-five heats up.
Port held down fifth spot heading into the clash and were three points in front of United on the ladder.
It made for an intense opening 45 minutes where both clubs scored goals worthy of winning any game.
Mikal Awad struck first for United in the 33rd minute with a stunning effort from 25-yards which beat an out-stretched Brad Jardine.
Port equalised just three minutes later courtesy of a superb low drive from Ben Zucco.
United got the winner 12 minutes after half time when Daisuke Yuzawa pounced first on a mistake at the back to propel the visitors to three valuable points.
“It was a gutsy performance,” Jovanovski said.
“When we got our second goal it kind of shocked Port a little bit I think but then they really came at us to try and get a result.
“The boys dug deep which was great to see.”
Jovanovski was hopeful the display would give his team the boost they need to push towards a finals berth.
“It was good to see the belief back amongst the boys,” he said.
“Hopefully we can keep the momentum going now and get back to where we want to be. We know we have the talent there to get back on track.”
In other matches, Albion Park White Eagles drew level with United and Port on 19 competition points with a 2-0 win over Picton Rangers.
Bulli and Wollongong Olympic also traded blows at the top of the ladder. Bulli beat Woonona 1-0 and Olympic defeated Corrimal 3-0.
Kemblawarra Fury lost ground on the leading pair by drawing 0-0 with Cringila Lions while Tarrawanna drew level in third place thanks to a 2-0 victory over South Coast United.