Wellington Phoenix coach Des Buckingham paid tribute to his players for continuing their late-season surge in a 1-1 draw against Sydney FC on Saturday night.
Michael McGlinchey’s stoppage-time header rescued a point at Westpac Stadium, enough to at least temporarily keep Wellington’s faint Finals Series hopes alive.
While a victory would have put more pressure on Perth, Buckingham commended his squad for continuing to fight for a top-six spot.
“To welcome the premiers here and play as well as we have, and apply ourselves as we have, [I’m] hugely pleased,” the Phoenix coach said.
“I think the way we’ve played the last three weeks, the desire to press hard from the front and be intelligent with it has been hugely evident. And we’ve got results from it.
“The players deserve all the credit … [for] the way they actually stuck to task this evening to get us a point and keep us within the playoffs depending on [Perth's result].”
Alongside co-coach Chris Greenacre, Buckingham has helped guide Phoenix to an improved second half of the season and can see the team's individual parts coming together.
“The back four – Andrew Durante, Marco Rossi and Tom Doyle – had an excellent game,” he said. “Ryan Lowry, who has been out injured for two weeks, got through nearly 90 minutes and put a good shift in.“Same with the midfield four, and again those front two caused problems in behind. We’re hugely pleased with that.”