The Western Sydney Wanderers bid Fortress Wanderland an emotional farewell on Friday night with a 4-1 thumping of the bottom-placed Central Coast Mariners.
With Parramatta's Pirtek Stadium set to be renovated from around October this year, the Wanderers hosted their final regular club match at the ground where they made their debut, and ironically against the same opponents the Mariners.
Western Sydney's manager Tony Popovic is adamant that nothing will have changed upon the return to the stadium in approximately 2019. "Next time we come back here for a league game, we'll have to create a new fortress in a brand new stadium... and that's what I believe the fans deserve here.
14, 855 fans entered the turnstiles and formed a unique atmosphere that was buzzing non-stop and it didn't take long for the entire stadium to erupt when just eight minutes in, an outside-of-the-box rocket from Dutch winger Romeo Castelen produced the first goal of the match.
A glancing header by Mariners' marquee Luis Garcia after a sweet delivery from Mitch Austin almost dampened the occasion for the Wanderers when the scores were levelled at 1-1 just 21 minutes into the contest.
The Wanderers were dominant throughout the entire match and it finally showed dividends as Brendon Santalab who was making his first start since Round 11, scored his seventh of the campaign after silky dribbling by Castelen and a parried shot by debutant goalkeeper, Adam Pearce created the opportunity for the tap-in.
The star striker who has gained plaudits this season for his 'super-sub' antics proved he has the quality required for a starting striker after he was on the end of a Scott Neville cross to head home his second of the night. Popovic praised Santalab for his efforts and his desire to constantly start matches, "He knocks on my door every day, in terms of the way he trains and I felt he deserved a start today."
Popovic also acknowledged the impressive showing of Kearyn Baccus who stepped in for the suspended Dimas and Shannon Cole who finally made his first A-League appearance this season. "It's not easy when you haven't had game time, to come in and perform.. I thought he (Baccus) did well. Shannon getting his first minutes this year. I'm delighted for them," Popovic summarised.
Mitch Nichols wrapped the one-sided match up after slotting home from a messy mix-up in the box to reach double figures in his goal tally for the second time in his A-League career.
Central Coast manager, Tony Walmsley continued to lament his side's abysmal season, taking accountability for it and iterating that the club is the best position in its existence, off the field. "You've got to wear it, you've got own it. I do, it's my accountability," Walmsley indicated in reference to the Mariners' struggles on the field this season. "The club's in the best shape it's ever been in off the pitch. On the pitch, it's the worst shape it's ever been in, so that's the next part of the journey, " Walmsley added.
Walmsley also mentioned the attributes he would be looking for in players to strengthen the team's squad next season as he prepares to rebuild, "We really need leadership qualities at the back, we need leadership qualities and strength in midfield. Two players at the opposite of the spectrum - the marquee player coming to the end of his career (Luis Garcia) and one's just starting out in the A-League in the beginning of his career (Liam Rose). They were two players who were prepared to go and take the ball under circumstances... we need more players that are prepared to do that."
The Wanderers have yet again climbed back to top spot and anxiously wait to see how results pan out for Adelaide United, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City in the remaining games this weekend.