Despite the result it was a great night out at Central Coast Stadium when the Wanderers came to town. Some reported that the result spoiled the Luis Garcia party but in reality most Mariners fans went home happy. Happy to have been part of the biggest crowd in a couple of years, happy to have been there to see Luis Garcia make his first appearance in a Central Coast Mariners shirt and happy the team showed the ability (when at their best) to mix it with the competition leader. Sure, Western Sydney finally got the better of us to take the points but had we avoided a couple of obvious mistakes, the result could have been different. The opposition are far too good for any team to gift them goals the way we did. Having the assist on the first goal and turning over the ball unnecessarily and in a dangerous position to provide the second, our rookie errors cost us. The key moment in the game was a silly and late tackle from our experienced captain Nick Montgomery and this hurt us the most.
Luis Garcia made his entrance around the 60 minute mark and it was instantly obvious he would have a key impact on the game. The moment was not lost on the more than 13000 attendees as they rose in unison to welcome his addition with a standing ovation. His first touches oozed class including a pass which saw us three on two with the WSW defense and a superbly weighted through ball to Mitch Austin whose cross from behind his defender setup Fabio Ferreira’s equalizer. At that moment of the game the Mariners looked the more likely but the Montgomery moment of madness turned our intention from competing for the points to trying to salvage the draw. Despite the loss, the impact of Luis Garcia was more than encouraging. Instead of the pessimistic descriptions used by them previously, pundits all of a sudden jumped on the Garcia bandwagon. Whether the potential can be converted to something more remains to be seen, but early signs indicate he can not only have an impact off the paddock but could well be a force on it. Either way, it was great to have some positive focus on his arrival at the Mariners for a change. I’m eager to see the impact he can have on attendances at both our away matches and our next home match against Adelaide. One thing I can say after watching Garcia, working on his fitness, by himself, in the pouring rain at our Centre of Excellence last Monday – I’m convinced of his professionalism and dedication to our cause.
The attendance of members of the NSW Liverpool Supporters Club was a bit of a fizzer when many less than expected turned out in the allocated bay. It wasn’t a concern. A great atmosphere was produced and it was a wonderful sight to see a return of big numbers to Central Coast Stadium. Clad in Barcelona, Liverpool or freshly pressed “Luis Garcia 10” Mariners palm tree shirts, the home fans were buoyant and involved and the Wanderers fans were loud as always. Theories from some WSW fans that the attendance was majority Red and Black were quite simply rubbish. I’d estimate Central Coast people made up 9-10000 of the attendance with WSW making up the other 3-4000. It was a decent turnout from the Red and Black but we’ve had larger over the years.
This week the Mariners have filed a formal complaint with the broadcaster and with the FFA about inappropriate and unnecessary remarks in the post-match review that inferred intent in relation to Nick Montgomery’s poor tackle. It’s a breath of fresh air and while plenty of neutrals and especially WSW fans refuse to understand what it’s about, it’s pretty simple. The role of the commentators is to analyze the match and identify and discuss the key moments. They should be forthcoming and unbiased in those discussions. What isn’t appropriate is commenting on what they believe the player was, or should have been thinking during the milliseconds preceding any incident. It’s not the first time one of the broadcaster’s commentators has gone beyond analysis into opinions about matters unrelated to their expertise, and no doubt it won’t be the last. Certainly the vast majority of Mariners fans understand exactly why the club would complain and there have been few of their comments not positive about it.
This weekend we take on Wellington Phoenix in Christchurch, New Zealand and despite the pundit’s predictions of protection from travel for Garcia, he made the trip with the squad and is expected to play a similar role to last weekend. The Phoenix have been all over the place in terms of their performances, including their loss to ourselves in Gosford on New Year’s Eve. In New Zealand however the Phoenix have a long history of good results and it takes a great performance and perhaps a little luck for a visiting side to leave with any of the points. With quality players such as former Mariner Michael McGlinchey and Roly Bonevacia pulling the attacking strings Central Coast will need to be on their defensive game to contain the Nix. The most significant challenge for Wellington will be covering for the loss of their experienced captain Andy Durante and midfielder Vince Lia, who miss this match through suspension.
Central Coast Mariners will have selection issues to consider themselves with their own Captain Nick Montgomery and defender Harry Ascroft unavailable through suspension. Likely inclusions to cover those positions would be Jake McGing in the holding midfielder role and Tomi Uskok in the central defense. Whatever the selections, the direction the team is heading right now draws plenty of applause from me. We’re in last spot but we’ve made personnel changes, we’ve changed our approach and we’ve raised the intensity in our last few matches. If we continue the improvements we’ll at least show the renowned Central Coast Mariners character as we finish off the season. If Luis Garcia can continue or add to his impressive debut, we will also have the quality to get ourselves a few results before the season is done.
My prediction: – I’d love to predict a Mariners victory but in New Zealand I think a draw is more likely. Phoenix 1 – Mariners 1Google+