Central Coast Mariners’ Coach, Paul Okon, and his young squad, appeared devastated by their 4 to 1 loss to the Western Sydney Wanderers at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday, December 3.
The home side’s fans were ecstatic when Blake Powell opened the scoring just fi ve minutes in, off a superb piece of play fed down the right hand channel by Storm Roux and Roy O’Donovan. Unfortunately, the Wanderers responded with lightning speed, cancelling out the Mariners’ lead within sixty seconds, with a defl ected goal to Wanderers Japanese winger Jumpei. Jumpei cut into the Mariners’ 18-yard-box, took a shot that defl ected slightly off Harry Ascroft and into the net, giving Paul Izzo no chance. Play then settled and the Mariners continued to work well down the right, but could not fi nish any of their chances in front of the 11,000-plus crowd.
As the half an hour mark arrived, the Wanderers hit the lead, thanks to Nicolas Martinez, who scored from a diving header. The Mariners spent the last 15 minutes of the fi rst half fi ghting with all their might to even up the score before half time. Although not refl ected by the score, the Central Coast Mariners ended the half stronger, dominated possession and created two golden chances. Striker Roy O’Donovan struck the post, and winger Connor Pain struck a sweet volley that went just wide of the upright before half time. Five minutes into the second half, a wicked cross deflected off the leg of Jake McGing and gifted the Wanderers a two-goal lead. Ten minutes later, play really opened up, when Buhagiar had a prime one-on-one chance to jag a goal back, before being fl attened by Wanderers’ keeper, Jerrard Tyson, who was shown red for his challenge. Fabio Ferreira came off the bench in a move that the crowd expected was specifically to take the resulting free kick, but acting captain Storm Roux appeared to pull rank and wasted the opportunity.
The red card forced Wanderer’s coach, Tony Popovic, to make defensive changes, prompting Paul Okon to do the polar opposite. The Mariners pushed men forward and dominated from the hour onwards, but couldn’t break down the Wanderers’ defence to get themselves back into the game. The Wanderers scored a fourth late on, thanks to late substitute Brendon Santalab’s strike from close range. The pace of wingers Trent Buhagiar and Connor Pain was a focal point in the Mariners’ attack, but on several occasions, the fi nal ball was only just out of O’Donovan’s reach. Okon’s starting lineup made it pretty obvious that it wasn’t going to be an easy day at the offi ce for the Mariners. Tavares and Montgomery, two of the squad’s most experienced heads, were both missing with injuries, and Poscoliero did not make his expected A-League return.
“Losing Tavares is a big loss, and Monty, which we knew was going to be diffi cult to overcome, but the boys worked hard and I can’t fault that,” Okon said. “It’s a little bit disappointing that we go up 1-0, which was a great goal, and then a minute later we allow the Wanderers to get cheaply into our penalty box and give them too much time on the ball and they replied straight away,” Okon said in his postmatch media conference. “We had two or three chances and probably should’ve gone into the break at two each, and it changes the game a little bit,” he said. “The Wanderers are a very good team and they’ve got some very dangerous players in the fi nal third, and that’s what punished us this afternoon.” Despite the painful loss, Paul Okon’s version of the Mariners still holds more skill, determination and youthful talent than anything witnessed at the Central Coast Stadium for more than a season. Okon said his objectives for the side had not been changed by the defeat and repeated that he could not blame the players for the match result.
“From our perspective, if the result had been different, it wouldn’t have changed our season, we will go away and look at it. “We have a tough away trip to Wellington next week, then we are at home the following weekend against the Roar, so the result doesn’t change anything for us. “The performance was good, can we improve? Absolutely!” Okon acknowledged that he was working with a young squad and match experience and resilience were both a work in progress. “If you take out Roy tonight, I think the average age was 21, we had two boys born in 97 who started in the midfi eld in Liam Rose and Adam Berry. “The club’s moving in the right direction, the philosophy of this club is to give opportunities to young players and we are doing that. “The Wanderers have experience and they sat back and closed the space, and were waiting for us to make mistakes, which we did.
“I think we were trying to force it, the instinct was just to get the ball forward because we had one man extra. “In fact, you need to continue to work and try and fi nd the space and then try and hurt them. “It sounds easy when you have an extra man, but you’re not playing a pub team, you’re playing the Wanderers. “Trent has been doing very well, he was excellent the other night against Perth. “Fabio is a weapon against any team coming off the bench, we have four good wingers at the club and everyone’s competing for their spot.” Okon said he hoped the fans would stick with the Mariners despite the loss. “The fans were great, in Newcastle, the game against Perth and tonight, they turned up in numbers.
“It would’ve been good to go on with it after scoring the fi rst goal, but it was always going to be a tough afternoon for us against a very good football team. “We thank them for that support and we hope people turn up and come and support us again in two weeks’ time when we play the Roar.” The Mariners now turn their attention to next weekend’s fi xture away from home, as they travel to New Zealand to face the Wellington Phoenix.
Website, Dec 3, 2016 Tyson Scott, Central Coast Mariners Match notes, Dec 3, 2016 Jackie Pearson, journalist