Okay…I’m putting my neck on the chopping block here. I’m suggesting the Central Coast Mariners – one point out of six so far – can make the top six this season.
Yes, they got smashed in the first round, but that was never a 5 – 1 game. The Mariners completely dominated the first half hour and might have been two or three ahead. If they had have gone two or more up it would have been a totally different game. Even the Jets fans posting on their match thread were incredulous that they’d gone ahead against the run of play – and the score really only blew out late after the Mariners dominated all game statistics – especially possession, shots and corners.
What’s more, the Jets benefited from a very soft penalty that could easily have been waved away and then a sheer piece of arse from Roy O’Donovan where the ball went off both feet to bobble over two defenders into the net. The Jets didn’t really start to play until they went ahead!
Hayden Foxe warned the WSW players and fans pre-game that the Mariners had actually played well the week before, despite the score, so they should not be expecting an easy win against a team who’ve done poorly since Arnie left.
Foxe was right to do so.
The Mariners dominated the game against the Wanderers and should have won. They deservedly went ahead via Asdrubal and should have been two up after Josh Rose’s sublime pass picked out Hoole for a two on one against the goalkeeper. All Hoole had to do was take a touch and he would have had all the time in the world to either pick his spot or square for Asdrubal. Instead he hit the ball first time straight at Janjetovic.
And what happens? The Wanderers go up the other end and get gifted a soft penalty against the run of play – just like the Jets the week before. And Glover nearly saved it (just as he did O’Donovan’s penalty the week before).
The Mariners deservedly went 2 – 1 up in the second half after a superb through ball by Hoole and first touch by De Silva. De Silva had an excellent game (as he did against Newcastle) and may well be the signing of the season. Mariners fans had better enjoy him now because (unfortunately) he’s too good for the A-League and is unlikely to be here next year.
But the Mariners couldn’t hang on.
Despite really bossing the game, they did not have the requisite quality in front of goal, and eventually succumbed to a sucker punch they should have avoided.
Still, the signs are very good for Mariners fans. The team is starting to gel very well and absolutely should have won this game away from home, against a team widely expected to make the top four.
Paul Okon has done a very good job in building a team and system. I quite like the look of Glover, despite a bit of bad luck so far. He will improve as he finds his confidence and improves his relationship with the back four. Golec and Baro look reasonably solid and Rose and Roux have experience and pace. The new Dutch midfield is already clicking and (as I mentioned) De Silva looks brilliant. They have all the pace in the world up front and an experienced Spanish striker. There are goals in that front third so it’s just a matter of improving the defensive resilience and having a bit more luck.
If the Mariners can just stop conceding stupid goals they will start accumulating points and the resulting confidence will take them to yet a higher plane. Mariners fans have every right to start feeling optimistic, and Jets fans even more so given they way they weathered the Mariners storm last week and then took them apart. They should have beaten Perth also.
I expect both Mariners and Jets fans to have a very good year indeed…well, better than last year.
Adrian’s latest book Political Football: Lawrie McKinna’s Dangerous Truth is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.