So relieved was Brendon Santalab to snap Western Sydney’s six-hour A-League goal drought on Saturday, he couldn’t even celebrate.
The veteran striker, reduced to tears after last week’s harrowing 5-0 Sydney derby thrashing, had spent the next seven days blocking out external criticism of a club in transition and visualising how to beat Central Coast.
During that time he scored some sweet goals in training.
But it was during the warm-up in Gosford when his finishing felt the best in a long time.
It showed on the field when Santalab used his first start of the season to net his first goal since March, a composed but venomous strike from some 20 metres out.
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The 35-year-old didn’t run over to the Wanderers’ travelling supporters, just hugged his teammates and assister Mark Bridge.
“It was just relief, because this was a huge-pressure game,” said Santalab, who later laid on an assist for Alvaro Cejudo.
“We lose this and who knows what would have happened.
“We’ve been through a lot as a club in the last 12-13 weeks. I have to admit the pressure was building.
“Three coaches in 12 weeks, a whole new philosophy, a lot of changes. We were hurt when Popa (Tony Popovic) left because we were set for a huge year.
“When we look at the table now it’s still not great, but tonight is more relief than anything.”
That was the story of Saturday’s 2-0 win over the Mariners.
Video assistant referee controversies aside, the display was an emphatic response to the Wanderers’ nine straight winless games – four of those under the watch of new coach Josep Gombau.
“Last week was embarrassing for us and very disappointing for the fans,” Santalab said.
“It’s a moment where, as a senior player, you need to take responsibility. We had a few older guys out there and it really helped.
“What we did this week was really focus on our individual roles. Before this week we were focusing too much on other things externally, and it was taking the focus off our individual performances.”
One result doesn’t change a season, as seventh place would attest.
And Gombau was already eager to press on.
“Last week we lost and it was not the end of the world and this week because we win the job is not done,” Gombau said.