CENTRAL Coast Mariners fought off a gallant effort by the cream of the FMS Central Coast Premier League to post a 5-0 victory and keep alive their unbeaten start to the Pre-Season.
"On a difficult pitch we still played football," said Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold. "On a pitch like that all it takes is one touch and the play is over.
"But they continued to play football, there was some impressive movement from the players, but also the fact that over the last two days they have had four heavy sessions plus tonight it was good."
The locals were keen on impressing their professional counterparts, and The Entrance striker Matt Kenny was the first to set his sights on goal, sending an effort from the edge of the box over the bar in just the second minute.
One Select XI player would have inside information on how the Mariners were likely to operate, and former Central Coast midfielder Damien Brown would have dearly loved to have scored against some of his former teammates, but it wasn't to be this time, as he unleashed from distance on 14 minutes.
The Mariners, while looking comfortable on the ball, didn't have their first real chance until 15 minutes in, when Chris Doig headed over from close range after Brad Porter provided a good delivery from a free kick on the left.
Matt Simon was racing toward a loose ball on 20 minutes but Select custodian Troy Ward showed plenty of courage in coming out of his goal to smother the danger, he wasn't to be as fortunate three minutes later.
Porter, who was looking dangerous down the right flank, squared the ball for Mustafa Amini, and the 17-year-old hit a low range shot from the edge of the area, which beat Ward at the near post.
Amini went close to a second soon after, when Adam Kwasnik went to the byline and put the ball into the mix, but Ward somehow managed to block the teenager's effort.
The Mariners weren't to be denied a second for too long though, and it was a similar move which resulted in the Yellow and Navy doubling their advantage.
Kwasnik again took the ball into the box and toward the byline, but this time elected to shoot from an acute angle, and watched his effort nestle inside the back post.
Kwasnik headed marginally wide and Matthew Lewis had an effort from distance easily saved as the clock wound down, and despite leading by just two goals, Arnold would have been happy with the first half showing by his men against a resolute opposition with plenty of pride on the line.
With the Mariners making seven half time substitutions and six changes to the select side, there was everything to play for again in the second half, however Nik Mrdja nearly killed the contest off almost immediately after the restart, only to see his header brilliantly saved by sub ‘keeper David Bolton, who was to play a big part in keeping the score respectable.
Michael McGlinchey and Oliver Bozanic both saw efforts wide, while the latter played a neat ball in for Mrdja on 62 minutes, who was again frustrated by the local custodian, who parried the Mariners' marksman's first time volley onto the bar.
Bolton was proving to be Mrdja's nemesis, when, on 68 minutes he dived low to his left to athletically deny the former Perth striker once more, but he could do nothing to prevent Brady Smith hammering home the Mariners' third moments later after showing great strength to dispossess his marker in the build up.
Mrdja did finally get on the scoresheet, and in some style too, bending a 25-yard free kick around the wall before watching it fit snugly inside the near post to make it 4-0.
Shane McParland went closest for the Select side in the 86th minute, unlucky to watch his right-footed effort cannon into the intersection of the near post and crossbar.
Despite the local side's best efforts, Arnold's men did have a fifth, as Bozanic calmly headed a cross in from Bernie Ibini-Isei home at the back stick, to complete a dominant performance against a side which never gave up.
"I'm very happy with the boys," said Arnold after the game. "They put in a good effort tonight, a good shift.
""A lot of them only played 45 minutes and we go to Sydney tomorrow to have training on a great pitch at the Showground."
The Mariners now turn their attention to three Hyundai A-League opponents in the space of eight days, as Saturday's clash with Sydney FC at Sydney Showground is followed by a meeting with Newcastle Jets at Budgewoi on Wednesday, before a trip to Launceston to tackle Melbourne Victory on Sunday.
Arnold added: "Those results, even in the coming week aren't crucial, but they are good for confidence.
"We have had a few weeks to stamp our mark on what type of system we want to play and what style of football we want from the players, so lets put that into practice against tougher opposition.
"Against tougher opposition it's even more important to keep the ball and the movement of the ball better, because if you make mistakes against tougher opposition you get penalised.
"It's very positive in the group, the players are fit, we don't have too many problems physically which is good, to get through a Pre-Season like that without too many problems is what we need."
Central Coast Select XI 0
Central Coast Mariners 5 (Amini 23', Kwasnik 31', Smith 71', Mrdja 81', Bozanic 86')
Central Coast Select XI: 1. Troy WARD (GK) (22. David BOLTON (GK) 46'), 2. David BREWER (16. Shane McPARLAND 46'), 3. Ryan O'CONNOR, 4. Matt PAGE, 5. Brian BEVERIDGE, 6. Brent DEMERY (15. Ian McANDREW 46'), 7. Matt KENNY (6. Brent DEMERY 79'), 8. David GRAHAM (12. Matt CROMPTON 46'), 9. Ryan MARSHALL (14. Luke ROGERS 46'), 10. Terry DRIES (13. Mat LAWRENCE 46'), 11. Damien BROWN (10. Terry DRIES 79').
Subs not Used: Nil.
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK) (20. Matthew NASH (GK) 46'), 5. Brad PORTER (4. Pedj BOJIC 46'), 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS (25. Jimmy OATES 76'), 12. Matthew LEWIS (7. John HUTCHINSON 46'), 17. Chris DOIG (27. Mitchell DUKE 66'), 18. Alex WILKINSON (C) (14. Michael McGLINCHEY 46'), 19. Matt SIMON (9. Nik MRDJA 46'), 21. Sam GALLAGHER, 22. Mustafa AMINI (11. Oliver BOZANIC 46'), 23. Adam KWASNIK (24. Bernie IBINI-ISEI 46').
Subs not Used: Nil.
Referee: Gerard PARSONS