|By DANIEL COLASIMONE
Mike Mulvey says his Brisbane Roar side are now a force to be reckoned with as the A-League finals approach.
While admitting Brisbane face a tough task against Central Coast Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium on Sunday, Mulvey insists that mentally the team are in good shape.
The Mariners have lost their last two A-League games but remain in second place on the table, while the Roar sit in seventh - just one point off fifth- with three games remaining in the regular season.
The Mariners travel to Japan to face Kashiwa Reysol in the Asian Champions League four days before their match with Brisbane.
"It is a big game, but I'm really comfortable going down there, not because of the fact that they're playing in Japan or they've lost a game or two, but because of the way we're playing," Mulvey said.
"If we take our game anywhere in the competition, we're going to be a force to be reckoned with right now because we're in a good head space, we're playing some good quality football, we're being incisive, penetrative, making chances and we're solid at the back.
"Things are looking good, but you can't rest on your laurels in this game, you've got to go down there and still make sure you perform because they are where they are on the ladder for a particular reason," he said.
Mulvey praised right-sided player Ivan Franjic, who has thrived since moving into midfield from full-back in recent weeks.
Franjic scored in the Roar's 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory last Saturday, and Mulvey said his combination with down the right with Jack Hingert has been one of the key's to the team's recent improvement.
"That combination is working. We can build on that side, we can come back out the other way," Mulvey said.
"The thing about Ivan is he understands the defensive role, of the situation, so if Jack's gone past him, Ivan will cover.
"We're in a good place, and those two are a good reason for it, because we had Shane and Thomas working very well on the left hand side, that cog was working beautifully, and now this right hand side is working beautifully, so it takes pressure off the left hand side, it means we're more of a threat on both sides of the field which is harder to contain."
Mulvey also revealed that he had instructed his players to have more attempts at goal as a way of varying their attacking play, as demonstrated by playmaker Thomas Broich's willingness to shoot from the edge of the area against Victory.
"One thing we might have been guilty of in the past is trying to walk the ball into the goal," he said.
"We certainly not trying to suddenly shoot it all the time, we want to get those combinations happening on the edge of the box, but if you're starting to shoot, you're giving an intent.
"I've told everybody we need to be thinking about shooting on site, where possible. But not for the sake of it, at the right time.
"And I think with players of that ilk you expect them to make the right decision more often than they don't.
"If you see they way that Victory played against us, they've actually parked the bus. So the passing lanes were not really open, the combinations were not available often, so if you can actually force somebody to close you down, maybe you can just play a little one-two and go around them.
"I think you'll see more of that as the season unwinds. If the opposition see that we're willing to shoot as well as willing to play our combinations, then they've got more things to think about."