The Central Coast Mariners suffered a home ground loss at Central Coast Stadium to their F3 rivals, the Newcastle Jets, on the evening of Tuesday, June 1.
After defeating the Jets twice this season already, most recently a fortnight ago, the Mariners failed to complete the triple, ending two goals behind at 0 – 2.
With the wooden spoon looming, the Jets went into this match as clear underdogs and the Mariners started the game with an attacking mindset, pushing players forward in search of an early goal.
Their attack was neutralised by a solid, efficient defensive set up by the Jets, cutting off the passing lanes that all season have set the Mariners up for scoring opportunities.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, the strategy created some holes at the back and made them vulnerable to the Jets’ strong counter-attack.
The visitors put away their first goal in the 27th minute, courtesy of Roy O’Donovan.
A lobbed through ball was launched by Jordan O’Doherty in his team’s defensive half, finding the head of Mariners defender, Key Rowles, who inadvertently directed the ball into the feet of Archie Goodwin.
A wide pass to O’Donovan found the ex-Mariner on the outside of Jack Clisby in defence and his sharp strike beat keeper, Mark Birighitti, and into the net.
With the opening goal secured, the momentum continued to shift in the favour of the away team and it wasn’t long before they found the net again.
This came in the 33rd minute, put away by Lucas Mauragis, once again on a counter-attacking break.
The ball was stolen from Matt Simon on the half-way line, leading to a three-on-three attacking situation for the Jets.
Angus Thurgate advanced with pace before slicing in between Daniel Hall and Gianni Stensness with a through ball to find Lucas Mauragis on a 45 degree angle ahead of goal.
Birighitti was able to get a foot onto the low struck ball and Stefan Nigro tried valiantly to head the deflection clear, but neither was enough to prevent the goal.
With the score remaining 2 – 0 at half time, the Jets returned to the field with the intention of sealing off their win through a careful defensive approach.
This allowed the Mariners more time on the ball, but they were let down by poor execution in their passing and crossing play.
The Mariners continued to suffer from a lack of shots on target.
An early substitution of Simon for Alou Kuol also failed to yield results with the young super-sub struggling to find the ball in recent appearances.
In the end, it was a disappointing result for the Central Coast side, although they remain in third place on the A League ladder ahead of Macarthur on goal difference.
While a spot in the finals was all but confirmed by the Wellington-Perth draw (May 30), the result may well have cost the yellow and blue a home ground advantage in the Elimination Finals.
Their final game against Western United to be played at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday, June 5, starting at 5:05 pm, may well prove crucial in this respect.