The Central Coast Mariners have had a far from boring beginning to their season with plenty of talk surrounding the Gosford based club after the first six games of their season.
Mariners boss Phil Moss has been in the line of fire from the media and fans alike with his questionable tactics and deployment of his chargers yet the Mariners sit on 1 win 2 draws and 3 losses to begin the season. Certainly not a flattering record, but it is far from terrible. While some fans have been calling for his head with some strange decisions including Starting XI’s and his timing of substitutes, Moss has been able to get his players to show glimpses of good football in the last week or two.
Off-field problems have burdened the yellow and navy with recent news coming to light that Senegalese import Malick Mane who came to the Central Coast on loan from Swedish club Gothenburg had requested a release to return home citing personal reasons. This came after the media had reported that Malick had stormed into the dressing room after a game and called his team-mates an unflattering word. This may just be speculation, but if that comment is indeed true, it may have sparked a revitalisation at the club with their last two matches ending in respectful away draws to Melbourne City and the Wanderers.
Another rumour to come out of the club’s base in Tuggerah is that defender Eddy Bosnar has become an overbearing influence at training and is in basically coaching the team along with Moss. Rumours of player unrest culminated in the home loss to Perth Glory where both Zac Anderson and Nick Montgomery were left out of the squad entirely. This seemed to strengthen the validity of the rumour before both were played in successive games against Adelaide in the FFA Cup, the away draw to City and away stalemate in Wanderland on Wednesday night. This rumour seemed to be squashed by Moss who has benched Bosnar in the last couple of games in favour of playing traditional left back Josh Rose in a centre half position and to accommodate rising youngster Michael Neill at left back.
The question of whether the Mariners have turned around their season is still a hard one to answer and they must start winning games for the pressure to ease on their manager. Moss comments at each post-match press conference of his improving team and the way they play to his structures and that if the performance was good, the result is secondary. Sorry Mr. Moss, football fans are unburdening in their support if the team are doing well, or they are relentless when results don’t go their way. The yellow and navy must start winning games of football to get back into contention for the top 6 as they head into a busy December period with 5 games to be played in 4 weeks before the January break for the Asian Cup.
The performance of the players is also a talking point for the media and fans with the departure of import Malick Mane who failed to find the back of the net in a yellow shirt and Hungarian Richard Vernes who is yet to fire either. The final third for the Mariners has been their main weakness with a lack of goals coming from the front man. Mitchell Duke is a man who needs to fire to get the Mariners season back on track and once he can find the back of the net again, his confidence will sky rocket and we will see plenty more bulge the net for the talented Central Coast striker. Nick Fitzgerald has been an ever present on the wing for the Mariners and he has made a good account of himself always causing trouble for defences.
There have been good performances from the ever reliable John Hutchinson and Nick Montgomery in their defensive midfield combination. The Mariners backline is the main talking point with different combinations used by Moss to try and find the most solid backline. Bosnar and Anderson have partnered in the centre of defence only for both to be dropped on occasion and Josh Rose coming further in field to play as a centre half. 7 goals conceded in 6 games is a respectful record, but the Mariners will look to improve their clean sheet record with only 2 recorded so far this season. New signing Jacob Poscoliero has been solid for the Mariners as both a centre back and right back and he has made a decent transition from state league to the A-League. Youngster Micky Neill has been impressive as a left fullback and he looks to be the long term replacement for Rose. Whatever the perfect backline for the Mariners is, that is still a work in progress. The Mariners also have decent depth with Matt Sim, Glen Trifiro and Isaka Cernak providing wing options. Moss seems to be in a stage where he doesn’t know his strongest starting XI and needs to find out sooner rather than later.
The Mariners started off their season positively with a last-gasp winner from Mitchell Duke in the F3 Derby earned them 3 points. Next up at home the Wellington Phoenix grabbed the win through goals to Nathan Burns and former Mariner Michael McGlinchey. The first away trip saw defeat to the Sky Blues and former gaffer Graham Arnold. A 2nd home loss in 3 starts to Perth Glory heaped more pressure on Moss before a season defining 2-2 draw to Melbourne City with Mariners stalwart John Hutchinson unleashing a shot from 20 yards in the 94th minute to steal a point. A 0-0 stalemate in Parramatta saw a slow resurgence of the Central Coast heart and spirit which had been missing in previous games. 6 games played for Central Coast for 5 points is not great, but it is not bad either. 7th place on the ladder is theirs for the moment and they will look to push into that top 6 in the coming rounds.
The next few games for the Gosford club are vital to keep pace with the top 6 and get back into form. A home game against one of the form teams of the competition Adelaide United on Sunday looms as a huge test for the yellow and navy who still have their 3-2 defeat to Adelaide in the semi-final of the FFA Cup on their minds. Then next Sunday is a big one. The 2nd F3 Derby of the season sees them travel north to Newcastle and Hunter Stadium keen to keep their dominance over the Jets in this fixture alive.
While the Mariners season has been a talking point of the A-League so far, they are travelling along better than most people give them credit for. And with so much of the season, yet to come, anything can happen in the A-League with 20 games still to come.Google+