The Central Coast Mariners were unlucky not to come out of their home match against Melbourne Victory with three points when the sides met at Central Coast Stadium on Sunday, October 29.
The 1-1 final score meant both teams walked away with a point, just enough to keep Central Coast off the bottom of the table, still one point ahead of their next opponent, Brisbane Roar.
The Central Coast Mariners were lucky to make it to half time without conceding but redeemed themselves in the second half with stylish attacking football, excellent individual performances, and several missed opportunities.
The first half was relatively lacklustre, with the visitors having more shots on goal and Victory’s imported striker, Leroy George, taking full advantage of the absence of esteemed Melbourne Victory attacker, Besart Berisha, who was serving a two-game ban, to show the Central Coast crowd what he was made of.
A crazy start to the match saw both teams with a chance in the first minute of play.
George played Mark Milligan, who shot from close range, but Tom Glover made an impressive save to keep the scores locked at 0-0.
The Mariners returned serve straight away with a counter of their own, which resulted in a set piece opportunity that Victory defended well.
Just moments later, there was a defensive mix up that saw Danny De Silva almost steal the ball from Victory’s goalkeeper, Lawrence Thomas, but the away team escaped unpunished.
The Mariners continued to impose themselves on the match with the majority of possession and chances in the opening stages.
The damage from the home side was being done predominantly on the right side through Storm Roux.
But it was Andrew Hoole’s ball from the right that went closest to putting the Mariners on the scoresheet when he ran onto a through ball from Roux.
In the 24th minute, Hoole’s ball flew into the area, but Thomas Deng reached it just in time to clear for a corner.
The final 15 minutes of the first half saw the Victory edge themselves back into the contest, earning more possession and time in the front third, but the teams went to the sheds at 0-0.
The stand-out player for the Mariners in the first half was Andrew Hoole, but at times, he looked completely isolated and without help whenever he attempted to make attacking plays.
The Mariners enjoyed the majority of possession in the first half but did not take advantage and looked outplayed at times as the clever-footed George and Victory’s other stalwarts made it a tricky affair for the young Mariners.
The Mariners versus Victory match was the traditional Pink round, dedicated to raising money for women’s cancer support services on the Coast.
The Mariners were without Roux in the second half, who left the field in the final minute of the first half with an ankle injury, to be replaced by Jake McGing.
“Storm Roux got kicked in the ankle that he broke,” said Head Coach, Mr Paul Okon, after the game.
“Hopefully it’s not too bad, he’s been selected for New Zealand.”
Victory came out of the blocks flying in the second half, and went close to taking the lead when Troisi broke on the left before playing Barbarouses, but the shot was wide.
From then on, it was all Mariners, and they hit the lead in the 58th minute, when Connor Pain cut in from the left and let rip on a stunning shot that flew into the top corner.
Less than 10 minutes later, George levelled the scores for Victory with a precision free-kick.
With 25 minutes left to play, the Mariners threw everything they had at Muscat’s Melbourne Victory and looked certain to win.
In the 72nd minute, Pain put his laces through a powerful volley bound for the top corner, but sent the goalposts shaking when it bounced off the apex.
Then, in the dying stages, substitute Kwabena Appiah, rounded Thomas before pulling the trigger on what looked to be the winner.
Appiah’s shot also thumped off the upright and the score stayed locked at 1-1.
With almost the final play of the game, in the 95th minute, a cross came in from the right to Appiah, who connected well with a header, but Thomas was on hand to make a save.
After 96 minutes of end to end football, Melbourne Victory managed to hold on to their undefeated, 13-game run against the Mariners, but only just.
The post-match consensus was that the Mariners deserved the three points.
The only individual who begged to differ was Victory’s Head Coach, Mr Kevin Muscat, who told the media post-match that he was too focused on his own team to offer any words of wisdom to the hosts.
Mariners’ Coach, Mr Paul Okon, said there were some draws that felt like a loss and some that felt like a win, and he wasn’t sure how to take this one.
“No-one probably would have begrudged us if we had won it in the end,” Mr Okon said.
“We had some really, really good chances to score, an open goal, sometimes they go in, and tonight it hits the post,” he said.
“That’s probably the closest we’ve come to a complete 95-plus minutes, which is why we were in a really good chance of winning.
“We knew Melbourne Victory would come at us hard, they still haven’t won their first game either and they are a team that likes to really lift the tempo and try to muscle you out of it, but I think we held our own, and throughout the game, played some really good football.
“Kabsy [Kwabena Appiah] came on and could have won it in the end with an open goal and a header.
“It wasn’t easy for Jake McGing to come on a minute before half time, so everyone contributes.
“I think throughout our four games, our defence has done its job.
“Confidence and belief has not wavered, everyone is on board, and we know that our first win will come, but we want to make sure that we keep performing and working hard with the football style that we’re playing.”
Stand out performances were Connor Pain’s goal and Apiah’s off-the-bench performance, that should have resulted in a goal.
Golec’s footwork in defence was, at times, stunning.
The Victory’s free kick was soft and arguably not deserved, but garnered the Victory the point they needed to prevent the Mariners from a well-deserved three points in front of their core supporters.
Coaching staff spoke to Connor Pain during the week about how to approach the match against his former club.
It worked well because Pain scored a sensational opener and almost took the headlines with his second strike.
“That’s what Connor Pain can deliver,” Mr Okon said.
“We knew Melbourne Victory were coming and it’s never easy coming up against your old club.
“He scores a great goal, the one that could have gone in would have been an even better goal.”
Media release, Oct 29
Tyson Scott, CC Mariners
Match report, Oct 29
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
Jackie Pearson, journalist
Noel Fisher, photos