Western United Head Coach John Aloisi was full of praise for his players after they reached the Round of 16 of the Australia Cup for the first time.
A first-half own goal from George Timotheou was pegged back by a screamer from Jake Brimmer before Lachie Wales scored the eventual winner in the 53rd minute.
Speaking to media after the match, Aloisi said this was yet another indication of the resolve of the playing squad to come through a tough match with the win.
“It’s a great result for the Club. We showed strong mentality again because we’ve got a very thin squad at the moment,” he said.
“That was our first hit out, so I’m really pleased for the players and the Club because they showed, again, the character that we’ve got.”
United bowed out of the Cup at the Round of 32 stage last year, when Aloisi gave opportunities to a number of the Club’s young stars to perform on the big stage.
With a handful of first-team players unavailable so far in pre-season, Aloisi again put his faith in a handful of young players and was pleased to see them take the opportunity.
“It was an opportunity to give another young player more minutes in Ben Collins. Also Rhys Bozinovski, he played 90 minutes; good to get Milanovic a start; Noah Botic gets more minutes,” he said.
“It was positive for us in getting the young boys in and testing them against who will be one of the better sides in the league.”
On Wales’ impact, Aloisi detailed conversations he has had with the No.8 and the work going on in training to help improve the 24-year-old’s game.
“I had a good chat with Lachie before he went on holiday and then when he got back, about how he just needs to keep improving,” he said.
“People say he doesn’t score a lot of goals, and it’s true for the quality he has, because he needs to get in those areas to get those tap ins. Tonight was perfect for him because he got in at the back post and scored that goal we wanted from him.”
The United boss also reserved particular praise for his full-backs in Ben Garuccio and Josh Risdon. After both put in superb 2021/22 seasons, Aloisi said he believes they should be in the eyes of national team selectors ahead of the FIFA World Cup in November.
“(They were) very good again. They’ll get better as they get fitter and the understanding comes back again,” he said.
“Ben Garuccio, I’m sure he should be knocking on the door of the national team, because if he keeps up the performances like he has been, along with Josh Risdon, they might be in (Graham Arnold)’s thoughts at least of making the squad.”
Up next in the Australia Cup will be a trip to face Sydney United, who currently sit in eighth place in NPL New South Wales.
“We’ve got a trip to Sydney!” Aloisi said after the draw was confirmed.
“They’ll be difficult, they’re a club with a lot of history from the NSL days. We’ll expect a difficult game, and they’ll be ready to try and knock off the champions of last season, so we just have to keep on preparing and keep on building and be ready for that game.”
Aloisi will be hoping to guide his side into the quarter-finals, with another piece of silverware and qualification for continental football on the line.