It was a rough and rocky voyage when the Mariners hosted Melbourne Heart last weekend. The “Cellar Dwellers” came prepared, and looked an improved outfit for their first appearance in front of the second coming of coach John Van’t Schip.
When Michael Mifsud got on the end of a Harry Kewell pass and hit the post in the 14th minute, it begun to look like the visitors were on track to end their horror run and deliver a blow to the Champions aspirations.
In all honesty neither team rose to any great height in their attacking adventures with neither producing more than a handful of half chances. Aside from Mifsud hitting the post, the nearest either team came to scoring was when Josh Rose fired over the bar from close range late in the game.
Plenty are writing off the Champions, but regardless of the quality of the rest of the competition, it is hard to be too frustrated when your team has not yet delivered its best and yet sits in outright 3rd after the scoreless draw. While the losses of Michael McGlinchey and Marcos Flores are significant, it has never been about individuals at the Mariners and I have a feeling the return of a more team focus might help galvanise the group as they look to find their best form. Looking for positives – the defensive structure of the Mariners was, as it most often is, solid and Matt Simon’s appearance in the 65th minute showed he is on the improvement path and closing in on capturing the form he is known for.
A more successful result was gained when the Central Coast Mariners Official Supporters Club held their first match-day event – Dress like a Pirate day – at the Heart match. Plenty of fans arrived in full Pirate regalia supporting the event but many more involved themselves in the colour and entertainment value of the day by wearing some form of Pirate wear and joining the fun. It was a very pleasing first up event for the CCMOSC and their official launch function will take place this Sunday from 3.30pm at Soccer5’s Tuggerah, before fans watch the Phoenix match together. With visits from Mariners non squad players, mascots Captain Yellowbeard and Admiral Frederick and the presence of local legend and Mayor Lawrie Mckinna, CCMOSC is looking forward to plenty of fun in the hours leading up to the Wellington match.
The team make possibly the hardest away trip in the Hyundai A-League when they visit the Wellington “Cake Tin” – the place is known for its windy conditions and unique surface making it a grave yard for many visiting sides. The Mariners however have a healthy record in Wellington and will look to continue that form against a side which has come into its own form including an excellent result at “Wanderland” last weekend. The fantastic recent form of Stijn Huysegems will be of particular concern to the Mariners and his combination with Tyler Boyd was a highlight for the Phoenix against the Wanderers. While the Wanderers were able to more than compete in many of the statistics in this match, it was the Phoenix who took their chances and WSW who didn’t. Phil Moss will have the Mariners concentrating on ensuring the Phoenix is not allowed the transition opportunities they were against Western Sydney.
The Mariners still have a lot to improve and coach and players are well aware they have not yet delivered their best. While this is a significant concern among the fans, it is fair to say that if the Mariners can begin to show their best and establish some form, they can compete with anyone in the competition. Teams riding high as favourites in the league deserve their positions but their fans will be hoping the form they have established in the early part of the competition can last until the last round and into the finals as well. While the Mariners remain in touch with the top four in the competition without ever actually showing their potential, other teams will be hoping they don’t discover their form. The question still remains though – can they discover it in time? Recent press suggestions that Phil Moss has been given the owner’s permission to make signings to fill the large number of gaps now formed in the Mariners roster are heartening for fans, but it will be interesting to see whether this results in the desired signings and improvements, especially with the Asian Champions League fast approaching.
Despite the loss of key players, I suspect this match-day squad will be among the most stable line-ups presented by the Mariners this campaign. I believe Phil Moss will stick largely with the side fielded last week and for a change, this will be a positive for the team. I’m not certain about the consistency of the Phoenix at this stage of the season despite their recent run of good form but this is their chance to prove they have what is required to make a run at the top six.
I think the Mariners can escape windy Wellington with a hard earned point in a low scoring encounter but would not be surprised to see the team shock a few and return with all three.
My prediction – DrawGoogle+