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BY THE PALM TREES

Now that result hurt! First match of the season, at home, and the F3 Derby to boot. Not one of our finest hours…and yet I walked from the stadium disappointed but not disbelieving.

It seems generally acknowledged that this was the best derby in years, and while some of that related to what was on the pitch, more than a fair share of it took place off it. It must be acknowledged that Newcastle’s fans put in one of their best away derby efforts of all time and it made a real difference. Perhaps they were attracted by the Mariners banter? Perhaps they’ve seen something different about their team’s preparation? One thing is for sure – it had nothing to with the FFA marketing the start of the competition or advertising the fixture well…because they didn’t. To be honest, the only real attempt to fire some interest into this match came from the billboard the Mariners took out over the F3 (M1 motorway) suggesting the “best road in Newcastle is the one leading out of it”. Love it or hate it, it surely had the desired effect in motivating more than two thousand Jets fans to travel. Let’s hope the atmosphere this time is a sign of things to come in terms of derby interest. We surely need it to convince the football powers that our derby deserves more respect, starting with a prime time Saturday TV slot at least once per season.

The “Yellow Army” put plenty of effort into adding colour to the first F3 Derby of the season

There has been plenty of talk since the weekend about how the banter back fired, as did the banner unfurled by the Yellow Army depicting Lawrie McKinna holding a Roy O’Donovan headed snake while also holding a dreaded wooden spoon. This was of course light hearted jibe at the club’s former striker via a play on a well-known “The Simpsons” TV episode about snake “whacking day”. Backfire or not, it certainly has kept the post game media interest going. After experiencing some light hearted hissing from the Yellow Army during his appearance at the clubs annual presentation dinner, this would have been nothing unexpected for Roy. He was quoted in the media later suggesting he has a good relationship with Central Coast fans and would have been disappointed if they didn’t direct some vitriol at him, in the circumstances. He certainly wasn’t offended, admitting his pre-match words “were all to sell tickets” after he had himself tried to add his own fuel to the fire in the media before the game.

Ernie Merrick (not involved in any of the banter – lucky because apparently he has no sense of humour at all) firstly refused to comment on such a “disgraceful display” (the banner) but has subsequently been extensively quoted in the Newcastle media whining about banner regulations and calling on the FFA to intervene. *Yawns…

Lawrie McKinna was quoted supposedly reminding fans that the Mariners hadn’t even offered O’Donovan a contract, “so what was he to do?” But that’s not how I thought things played out for Roy in the off-season… As far as I’m concerned, after the Mariners offered Roy a new contract, Roy took the higher offer from the Jets – as is his prerogative (and I personally don’t disrespect him for it). At the same time, if the Jets want to pay more for the player, I said at the time, that’s their prerogative too. Fans will always show players extra attention when they return to their former clubs and you’d have to be a pretty green football fan not to know that most believe (including players) this to be a sign of respect.

Anyway, behind all the gracious winners comments… and off field whining about the small things (much of which I hope fuels the hatred for the next derby) there was an entertaining football match, albeit that the result hurt. For the Jets part, they were about as clinical as any side I’ve witnessed. Everything they touched turned to gold. Fair play to them and fair play to hat trick scorer O’Donovan who might have seen a higher CCM offer during the off-season if he’d ever been able to finish with the same efficiency wearing a yellow shirt. The match was gone from us before half time in a remarkable effort which can only be applauded. That their striker was scoring even from “shanked” shots was a measure of how easily things fell for him that day.

From our side’s point of view there was much to like outside of the score. The possession statistic is a bit of an irrelevancy given Paolo Okon’s penchant for possession based football, but there were few other statistics which were not dominated by the Mariners. Periods in the game showed the kind of football we might be capable of this year and it was certainly encouraging.

Our foreign players showed enough signs to cause plenty of optimism. Striker Asdrubal got off the mark early, albeit through a reflex knee which turned a well-placed corner into the net. Wout Brama showed his quality and strength, while Tom Hiariej showed a range of qualities which had at least one commentator calling him a possible “signing of the season” after just the second game of the first round! His high quality set pieces caught the eye and while Alan Baro showed some of the strength he can bring to the defense, he will have been disappointed with his effort overall, giving away the penalty which did the first damage.

Likewise there was plenty to like about the efforts of Daniel De Silva, who showed glimpses of the quality touches he can bring, not to mention an amazing turn of pace – shown first when his left wing run in behind earned the corner which Asdrubal scored from. As De Silva reaches peak fitness I expect he will have an increasingly significant impact on our game.

The broken Central Coast Stadium video screen. “New Screen Coming Soon”…

It would be remiss of me not to continue my whinging about the poor efforts of Central Coast Council and their consistent poor contributions to our stadium. The temporary big screen put in place (when the usual one broke down at the last minute) was poor (at best) – even more difficult to read from the west side than the original. One can only hope the “New Screen Coming Soon” sign on the dysfunctional device is true and that the quality of that offering finally exceeds the underwhelming efforts to date. Coasties should expect our council to keep our stadium facilities up to date and well maintained, not to force us to endure outdated and mediocre facilities like the video screen solution. In addition, to see the terrible quality of the once carpet like pitch is (to me) a measure of how poorly they’re going. I’m sure they have plenty of excuses to wheel out but it just isn’t good enough. It certainly didn’t explain the football result, but there were a number of moments in the game where it was obvious to the fans that the “patchy” pitch had impacted the play, and there was constant sand thrown up by moving players and the ball. Let’s hope this is also temporary, not a result of insufficient budget, mismanagement, or similar, and we have our beautiful pitch restored before the next home game.

Looking ahead we have a couple of away matches before re-appearing at Central Coast Stadium on the 29th of October, to host the Victory. But first we travel to Spotless Stadium to face Western Sydney Wanderers where we have performed well in the past. The Wanderers accounted for Perth Glory in the first round, but I didn’t think the level of intensity in that game was in the same ball park as one or two other games (including the derby), which should make it interesting. It was still a good looking result for them so they will be confident, but with the return of our entire starting right side combination, we will also be confident. This is our opportunity to pick ourselves up move on from last weekend and I have no doubt we will.

My prediction – a low scoring draw

About Erin Morrow (106 Articles)
<p>Football fanatic and amateur analyst. An over 35′s player and sometimes coach. He does the occasional refereeing. Passionate Central Coast Mariners foundation member.</p> <p>Follow on Twitter: @Erin_Mariner</p>