Daryl Braithwaite’s dulcet tones were still echoing through Central Coast’s changerooms when Paul Okon finally got a chance to reflect on his side’s A-League upset of an off-colour Sydney FC.
If there was ever a moment to engage in some impassioned sky-punching to The Horses, a first win of the season over the rarely-beaten reigning champions was probably it.
But while his Sydney coaching counterpart Graham Arnold may have spent Friday night’s bus ride back from Gosford thinking “if you fall I’ll pick you up”, Okon’s mindset was more “we will fly, way up high”.
Because for him, the Mariners’ 2-0 shock of the all-conquering Sky Blues – who even now have only lost two league games in 19 months – equalled all this campaign’s promising moments coalesced over 90 minutes.
And having, at least briefly, crept into the top six for the second time in two years, Okon was loath to view the victory as a one-off.
“That’s great, but we want more than that,” Okon said.
“We want to win more games at home. We hope after tonight there’s more belief in us from our supporters, who’ve been tremendous thus far.
“Every win is special – haven’t had too many. Certainly it is a big occasion for the club.
“It’s our first win, it’s against the champions – the benchmark.
“We’re delighted for winning the game but also that’s two weeks in a row a clean sheet, three weeks we’re unbeaten.
“Hopefully this can give us that confidence that we can win.”
Okon lauded his team’s hunger, singling out man of the match Tom Hiariej and revealing a text message earlier in the day had galvanised the Dutch midfielder.
“I sent a message to Tom telling him if he was serious we needed him to be our best player,” Okon said.
“He promised me, and he delivered.
“It’s not a surprise, we know his qualities. It’s never easy as a foreign player when you come to a country and need to adapt.
“I thought he probably was a little bit quiet last week, so it was more for him to understand how important I think he is for the team. He was outstanding.”
The next challenge arrives in five days when the Mariners host Adelaide.
In-form Spanish striker Asdrubal is in doubt with a knock that got him subbed at halftime, but Okon backed substitute speedster Kwabena Appiah to step up if called on.
More than anything, the coach stressed that replicating Friday’s all-in intensity was the pathway to future results.
“Adelaide is a strong team but we’re at home, we’re playing good football and we’ve got to make sure we bring that sort of mindset,” he said.
“If we don’t, we risk the same thing we’ve had previously where we’ve played good, dominated and had our opportunities, but left points.
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