There is a renewed sense of optimism around the performances of the Central Coast Mariners and not just from the club, playing staff or fans – it’s also among the media pundits.
The Mariners all of a sudden find themselves close to the top six, with three consecutive wins, and in the process have removed a number of unwanted “monkeys” from their backs. Our first home win in eleven months and first clean sheet in 36 matches came with a 2-0 home victory over Perth Glory. We followed that up with our first consecutive wins since 2014 when we overcame Adelaide in Canberra, and in doing so bettered the abysmal number of points we accumulated last season. Last weekend we recorded our first away clean sheet in 27 games, just our second ever away win over Western Sydney Wanderers (the last one coming in January 2013), and the first time we have recorded three consecutive victories since March 2014. Anyone would think Paul Okon is having an impact despite someone else signing the squad…
In the first win (against Perth) the Mariners surely rode their luck in the first half and only Adam Taggart’s failure to apply the finish to a superb Castro cross prevented them from going ahead just before half time. In the second half though the Mariners were a different proposition and when Josh Bingham was in position to pick up on a Perth mistake and stab home, the Mariners were on their way. Less than five minutes later Fabio Ferreira was on song from the spot putting a cheeky “Panenka” past former Mariner, Liam Reddy, after Josh Risdon handled the ball in the Perth Box.
The following week the Mariners took on Adelaide at GIO Stadium in Canberra with the match being played in stifling conditions. An error from replacement Adelaide goalkeeper, John Hall, gifted Fabio Ferreira the Mariner’s opener around eight minutes before the break. Adelaide created some decent chances of their own either side of the interval with Paul Izzo’s superb saves preventing an equaliser. Adelaide was burned for their failure to take their chances with around ten minutes remaining via Kwabena Appiah’s calm finish from a goalkeeper rebound. Adelaide found the net in injury time but despite some understandable nervousness from our fans, the result was never in doubt.
Next up was the Wanderers. It was never going to be an easy task taking on Western Sydney at home and they dominated much of the first half without providing a real threat to Mariner’s custodian, Paul Izzo. Nico Martinez and Terry Antonis had chances in the first half after good work from Mitch Nichols but Paul Izzo kept the sheet clean. In the second half the Mariners played their way into the game and despite giving away chances to Brendan Santalab it was the Central Coast who made the most of their own with Roy O’Donovan chalking up a brace, first via the penalty spot and later chipping the keeper with around fifteen minutes remaining.
Results are pushing fans to believe and there is plenty to believe in with Paul Okon having a clearly definable impact on the team despite having little to nil input on the signing of the squad. Fans are starting to feel good about their team again and optimistic about the future and how the team will perform when the roster is finally designed by the manager. Results aside, the performances have given fans a sense of passion and determination around the team which reminds us of the days of old.
This weekend we return to Central Coast Stadium to take on Melbourne Victory. Earlier in the season we took them on in Melbourne but were never in the race. The only positive in a 4-1 shellacking came when replacement Trent Buhagiar scored his maiden A-League goal with a quality finish from the edge of the area. It would be a lot to expect the team to threaten the Victory but that’s what I said about Western Sydney before last weekend. I think most fans will think they can be hopeful without having big expectations. It’s great to have performed well enough to allow us to start believing we are no longer the easy beats we once were but another thing altogether to start thinking this somehow positions us for making the finals. We’ve made great progress and we have established a little momentum, nothing more, yet. I’ll be happy if we can add the confidence of the last three matches to the positivity of our recent performances at home against some of the top teams – Melbourne City and Sydney FC – where some would suggest we should have picked up the points.
So, can we dare to believe there is a possibility of getting something from this one? I think we can.Google+