By Michael Church
(Reuters) - Quietly and efficiently, new boys Macarthur FC have climbed the standings in their debut season in the A-League, but coach Ante Milicic will stick to a game-by-game approach as the business end of the season comes into view.
The club from southwest Sydney notched up a third win in a row on Friday to move into second in the table, three points behind leaders the Central Coast Mariners and seven clear of champions Sydney FC.
In a season of surprises, Macarthur's progress had gone under the radar, but the 2-0 win over Perth Glory - courtesy of a brace from ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Matt Derbsyshire - has brought Milicic's team into the spotlight.
"I look at our performances and we want to be competitive," said Milicic, who led Australia at the 2019 Women's World Cup.
"We've won more games than we've lost and we just focus on the next opponent. We know we can play good football, what we just need is more consistency and to play our way for longer periods of the game."
Milicic and the club have put together a strong squad boasting significant experience, led by former Socceroos captain Mark Milligan as well as Australia internationals Adam Federici in goal and Tommy Oar on the wing.
Derbyshire joined the club from Omonia in Cyprus having previously starred with Blackburn, and the 34-year-old is the second-highest scorer in the league, with 10 goals.
Despite a decent array of talent at his disposal, Milicic admits it has taken the squad time to gel but, having now played 15 competitive games, the team are starting to hit their stride.
"We've got a squad with a lot of players who didn't play in the A-League last year, so we knew it would take time for them to adjust to the playing style and for me to get to know the players as well," he said.
"I've probably got a good handful of players there that have played in a couple of different positions for us this season, so the stability's been good for us and hopefully with injuries and suspensions we can keep that basis together."
With 11 games remaining in the regular season, Macarthur are in position to secure a place in the playoffs at the first attempt, although Milicic is not looking that far ahead.
"The ladder will be what it will be at the end," he said. "We've just got to make sure we're there, or thereabouts.
"With the group of players that we've got, we don't need to talk about where we want to finish. Every club in the league will have ambitions to finish in the top six and be in the playoffs.
"We don't speak about that, we just look forward to the next game and every session trying to get better and work on the playing style."
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Clarence Fernandez)