Central Coast Mariners coach Paul Okon has paid tribute to his defence for playing a critical role in his team's three straight A-League wins.
The Mariners will host second-placed Melbourne Victory on Sunday with a fourth win in a row in their sights, and Okon highlighted the importance of his back four and goalkeeper Paul Izzo in Central Coast's impressive run.
Okon has selected the same defensive quintet for the wins over Perth Glory, Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers, with Izzo lining up behind Scott Galloway, Jacob Poscoliero, Liam Rose and Storm Roux.
The young defensive group - their average age is just 22.4 - have conceded just one goal in three matches.
"I think that's a big reason why we've won the last three games 'cause defensively we've been really solid," Okon said on Friday.
"We've looked like we weren't really going to concede, we've eliminated silly mistakes and it's really been a platform to go on and win the game."
Based on that defensive solidity, Okon indicated it was unlikely fit-again central defender Jacques Faty won't start at Central Coast Stadium, while he said Adam Berry was the "obvious replacement" for suspended captain Nick Montgomery.
The Mariners' boss also revealed Blake Powell (knee) could be ready for the F3 Derby on February 26.
Central Coast's improving form has seen them join eighth-placed Wellington Phoenix on 19 points, just two points outside the A-League finals positions.
After finishing last in 2015-16, the Mariners remain a work-in-progress but Okon wants his team to keep pushing for a top-six finish.
"We're not saying 'we're in the race for the top six' or 'we're going to make the top six' but it's our job as a team, as a club to stay in the running for as long as possible, and if we can get three points on the weekend that certainly brings us into that equation even more," the 44-year-old said.