North Shore Mariners will now face PS4 NPL 2 Premiers Marconi Stallions in the second week of the finals.
In a positive note for the Mariners' brand, Central Coast and North Shore clashed in what was predicted to be an intriguing matchup between teams of contrasting styles.
But North Shore’s physicality and high pressing game proved to be a challenge too difficult for the academy side, with set pieces proving to be the thorn in the Central Coast’s side.
North Shore opened the scoring in the 23rd minute through Braden Cheng and Mitch Smith grabbed another goal just shy of halftime to hold a 2-0 lead at the break.
North Shore came out fired up in the second spell and scored their third, an own goal, two minutes after the restart. Central Coast meanwhile, grabbed a consolation goal in the 90th minute where Gianni Stensness fired home a chance created by Lachlan Wales.
The young Coast side have played some brilliant football this season and possess the most potent front third in the competition - with the likes of Duncan Stewart, Brenton Fox, Lachlan Wales and Peter Kekeris causing havoc for every backline this season.
Central Coast Mariners Academy Head Coach, Ben Cahn reflected on Sunday’s fixture against the North Shore Mariners as a disappointing end to a positive season.
“Sunday was almost a microcosm of our season,” Cahn said. “We started with full control of the game and kept the ball really well but didn’t create as many chances as we would have liked. Then we were undone with a corner against the run of play, which has been an achilles heel of ours all season and from there we conceded a second goal from a set piece.
“At half time we spoke about not conceding set pieces in dangerous areas but unfortunately, 30 seconds into the second half a free-kick somehow deflected into the net,” Cahn said.
Cahn praised his side for their development throughout the season and is looking forward to the upcoming Foxtel National Youth League campaign. All three Mariners Academy grades finished higher on their competition ladder than last season.
“In the youth development space, it’s all about the individual players improving throughout the season,” Cahn said. “To see players progress from the 18’s and 20’s into the academy first team is great.
“To see local boys like Mickey Glassock who came in after about nine rounds and not leave the team is outstanding. He has grown as a person, grown as a leader in the group and he has been crucial in the backend of the season. He’s only an example of a few of those boys which has probably been the most pleasing aspect of the season.
“Most of our FNYL squad will likely come from our existing squads at the moment. From where we were this time last year there is a lot more depth in the program.
“I also want to wish the best of luck to the under 18’s side this weekend. There’s been a lot of movement between the three senior teams, the 18’s have been strong all season regardless of who is playing for them so we hope they can go on and win the Grand Final. They won the league by 11 points so they deserve that success. There are a number of individuals in that team that will certainly be considered for NYL.
“The senior players in our squad have been very important. They are the ones you look to for levels of consistency and to raise the bar in performances. With some of those senior players departing, it’s been great to see other players step up like Lachie Wales, James Enticknap, Brenton Fox & Duncan Stewart.
“For players who are that young, it’s difficult to understand how to lead a team so it’s been a massive learning experience for them which I hope they can take into their careers,” Cahn said.
“The fans have been amazing for us this season and it’s fantastic for the football club,” Cahn said. “For myself and the players we talk a lot about the support we get and how thankful we are and to those people who have come to all sorts of remote locations around NSW to watch us play I want to say a massive thank you.
“They helped drive us, we’ve had some tough times during the season and there’s been those moments where the support of the fans that have helped us so hopefully that can continue,” Cahn said.