(Reuters) - Alen Stajcic is running out of ways to praise his Central Coast Mariners side after seeing the A-League's surprise leaders extend their advantage at the summit following Thursday's victory over Adelaide United.
Two goals in four second-half minutes from Oliver Bozanic and Alou Kuol saw the Mariners come back from a goal down to hand second-placed Adelaide a 2-1 defeat and break a six match winning streak for Carl Veart's side.
In the process, Mariners extended their lead at the top of the standings to four points, with their prospects further enhanced after third-placed Melbourne City lost 2-1 to Western United earlier in the day.
"I can't use any more superlatives, the courage, the conviction, the resilience that they showed," said Stajcic.
"We talked about fighting for that number one spot, and number one was on the line tonight.
"It was one versus two with Melbourne City losing earlier tonight and we've held onto that top spot since December 31.
"Virtually every day we've spoken about the hunger and desire to maintain that position at the top of the ladder. We've worked hard to put ourselves in that position."
Central Coast, who finished bottom of last season's A-League standings, led the table ahead of Thursday's games but, without a win in their previous three games, the Mariners were in danger of slipping out of pole position.
Kusini Yengi put Adelaide in front while visiting goalkeeper Joe Gauchi saved a pair of penalties to frustrate the Mariners before Bozanic and Kuol struck in the 72nd and 76th minutes to secure the three points.
"We're virtually into the fourth month of the league and we're still on top of the table," said Stajcic.
"It's not by luck, I think we've played well in virtually every game and been in contention to win every game.
"That's why I said we were the bench mark and again tonight we showed qualities and characteristics that you need to be at the top of the ladder, and for that I'm really proud of the team.
"I've been saying for many weeks that it's early, but it's not early now.
"We've rounded the first lap in the Melbourne Cup and we're well into the second lap and with 15 games down there's 11 to go.
"Still a long way to go, but we're in a good position tonight that's for sure."
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Michael Perry)