Since my last blog we’ve taken on Brisbane at home, the Victory in Melbourne and Melbourne City at home. Neither the Brisbane or Melbourne Victory matches went our way but there were some things to like about our performances at home against both Brisbane and Tim Cahill’s Melbourne City.
Brisbane’s visit to Central Coast Stadium before Christmas probably ended in a not unexpected result, but there were continuing signs of improvement and enough encouragement for many fans to think the future is not so bleak. Sure we gave them the winner in the end, but we had some excellent moments in the game and with a bit more experience we might have stopped the Brisbane transition that led to it – even if that would have meant giving away a yellow card.
After Christmas we finally played our first match against Melbourne opposition when we took on the Victory at AAMI Park. It was another unwanted result but was it really unexpected? Let’s face it – Victory started the season with some underwhelming performances but has since recruited the likes of Rojas, Troisi and Beister to their squad. While the latter two haven’t hit their best form yet, for at least one of them, it’s only a matter of time, and they certainly performed well against us. The hardest part to take was the manner of the loss. The only real positive was the classy finish from Trent Buhagiar when he entered the game late.
Next up was our traditional New Year’s Eve home match, this time against Tim Cahill’s Melbourne City. We might not have grabbed the win but what a turnaround in performance our boys put up! Mariner’s fans might have momentarily thought we were heading for a much needed win and all three points when Roy O’Donovan scored a late goal to put the Mariners in front, but it was not to be. A poorly timed tackle in our defensive penalty area sucked the air out of the stadium and gave Bruno Fornaroli the chance to step up and right the wrongs of his previous game penalty foibles by firing into the net for a last minute equaliser to give City a share of the points.
The match went to script as Tim Cahill scored his trademark emphatic headed goal late in the first half, although the ball boy in the North Eastern corner hadn’t read the script, creating a memorable moment of his own when he stopped Cahill’s traditional celebration by removing the corner flag – a quality intervention.
In the second half the Mariners looked the better of the sides, racking up some impressive possession stats and creating some good opportunities to get a foot hold in the match. Substitutes Fabio Ferreira and Connor Pain entered the fray and when Ferreira rode a tackle near the half way line and took off toward the City defense, he was able to draw two defenders and slide young Coastie, Trent Buhagiar into space on the left side of the box. There he unleashed a cracking drive into the net via the bottom of the crossbar for his second goal in two games.
This weekend we host a rampant Sydney FC, undefeated this season and looking every bit the Premiers, even with so much of the season remaining. To me the only team showing a threat is the Victory, and our men in Yellow will have their work cut out for them getting anything from this one. Former Central Coast Champion coach Graham Arnold has the Sky Blues performing at such a level they’re being talked about in the same frame as the best teams in the history of the A-League.
If the Mariners can perform the way they did on New Year’s Eve, they should ensure Sydney is made to work harder for a result than they did earlier in the season. Confidence among the players should be high but the question is one of consistency. After most positive results this season the following performance has not lived up to the expectation of the coach or the fans. Can this be the first step in changing our trajectory? Our only advantage is our home, Central Coast Stadium, so let’s get plenty of locals to turn up to help them pull off an upset, however unlikely. Not only that, the match is also the Mariners (now traditional) “Pink Round” in support of Pink Ribbon Day – an annual initiative organised by Australia’s Cancer Council. It’s a wonderful cause so get behind it people and get your family, your mates, even your enemies if you like. Whatever you do get as many pink clad people to the match as possible and show the boys we’re with them.Google+