Adelaide United entered this season with one of the youngest squads in the competition and a brand new leadership group, headlined by captain Stefan Mauk.
The Reds started strong before patchy away form halted their progress, however they have now strung together five wins in a row, three of those away from home.
The man at the heart of the turn of fortune has been Mauk, who has four goals in his last four games which has seen the Reds propel themselves to third on the table heading into Sunday’s clash against Sydney FC.
This year is Mauk’s first attempt at captaincy and at the age of 25, he is now one of the senior members of the side.
Mauk spoke to The Inner Sanctum about how he has had to adjust his game throughout the season to make sure he gets the best out of himself as well as his teammates.
“I think early on I tried to really just play the same way as I was before and I think the first couple of games that was good but then I had a little injury and we had a bit of a form slump,” he said.
“Coming back into the team I definitely did feel the pressure a little bit.
“I felt like it was part of my role to help the other players improve and obviously that would make us win games and when you’re losing games it feels like everybody’s against you.
“I really just went back to worrying about myself first and foremost and how I played on the field and leading by example that way and hopefully bringing other players along and that’s what I think I’ve done in the last four or five weeks.
“I think that’s the big one, if I can inspire players to be their best through my performances, I think I’m doing a good job.”
Mauk’s recent strong performances have coincided with the return of Reds fan favourite Craig Goodwin.
Goodwin, who made his third debut for the club after signing on loan from the Saudi League, has been a breath of fresh air for the Reds, finding the back of the net three times since his arrival.
Spanish import Javi Lopez has also managed to string together consistent starts after battling multiple injuries through the early part of the season.
Mauk lauded both of their efforts and said they have both been instrumental in the club’s recent run of winning form.
“He (Goodwin) doesn’t say too much around the club so you wouldn’t know he’s there,” Mauk joked.
“He’s a good guy, he’s a great guy to have around the club and I think having that experience on the field, maybe not so much with his talking because on the field he’s not a loud person but just his calmness.
“I think Javi Lopez has been a big one as well.
“Javi has added that bit of experience and you know when he gets the ball, the same with Craig, they’re going to do something well with it.
“They’re going to do the right thing, they’re going to keep the ball when we need to or when we’re going to go forward they go forward and they make the right decisions and that’s why they’re obviously top class players.”
The Reds will remain without frontmen Tomi Juric and Mo Toure for the time being but the recent form of Kusini Yengi has been a huge x-factor in recent games.
United welcome the Sky Blues to Coopers Stadium on Sunday afternoon who they haven’t beaten since the FFA Cup win in 2018.