Veteran midfielder Steve Hayes believes Wollongong’s form is far better than it appears on paper and insists confidence remains high at the club despite a difficult run in the NSW NPL Men’s 1.
The Wolves top-five hopes have taken a substantial hit over the past fortnight after falling to back-to-back defeats to title hopefuls Blacktown City and APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
However, Hayes maintains the former NSL club have no reason to panic.
He was adamant that belief around the club is high as they prepare for another crucial encounter against Sydney United 58 at WIN Stadium on Sunday.
"I think the level of confidence in the boys, although we have lost our last two, it hasn't changed," Hayes said.
"We still go into each game believing that we will win.
"When you have a squad that goes into games with that belief, it means we will always be a tough team to beat.
“I think over the past few weeks we have started to just gel now. I really believe that.
"We have started to believe in each other.”
Hayes confidence in the Wolves comes after the club has continually shown in patches this season that they can be a force against the league’s top sides, but have struggled to do it consistently.
As a result, they’ve been locked in a mid-table battle for much of the campaign while still staying in touching distance of a top-five berth.
If they can make a late season surge, it would bolster their post-season claims.
For that to happen, they must take the three points in matches like this weekend’s showdown against fifth-placed United .
"Any game this close out from finals, we treat it as a final anyway especially for a team in our position,” Hayes said.
"We are in with a good shot. We are very confident coming into this weekend but also for the remainder of the season.
“Every game is important now, it doesn’t matter who we are playing. You have to win.”
United were too good for the Wolves when the two sides met on Easter Monday this year in a match where coach Jacob Timpano admitted his squad were ‘second best’.
Hayes agreed that United had Wollongong’s measure in the 2-0 defeat, but took positives from the occasion.
“The first round we played them, they probably controlled the game to be fair but we still had our chances to score. You look at that as a positive,” Hayes said.
“And I think since then we have grown as a team and it has been pretty evident if you watch us play.
“We have a lot more confidence.”
Hayes, as well as goalkeeper Justin Pasfield, have both spent time at Sydney United in their extensive careers.
Hayes, 32, returned to Wollongong from Sutherland at the beginning of this season and has spent the majority of the campaign in the heart of midfield.
- Round 17
Wollongong Wolves v Sydney United