All hands on deck for Christmas cracker
The cavalry has returned for the Central Coast Mariners ahead of Saturday’s surefire Hyundai A-League epic against Sydney FC at Bluetongue Stadium, with Dean Heffernan, Paul O’Grady and Matt Simon each included in an extended 18-man squad.
The cavalry has returned for the Central Coast Mariners ahead of Saturday-s surefire Hyundai A-League epic against Sydney FC at Bluetongue Stadium, with Dean Heffernan, Paul O-Grady and Matt Simon each included in an extended 18-man squad.
Almost a year since a match that is commonly regarded as the greatest in Hyundai A-League history, the Mariners have again set their sights on their southern rivals and all but the suspended Nigel Boogaard and long-term injury sufferer Ahmad Elrich are up for the challenge.
The Mariners are still represented by nine players that took to the pitch that night, 22 December 2007, while Sydney FC have the same amount in their current playing squad.
The Mariners- Matthew Nash has swapped Sydney colours for yellow and navy, while Sydney striker John Aloisi has gone in the opposite direction.
Nine goals from nine different goal scorers, two red cards and a record Bluetongue Stadium attendance were among the highlights of an engrossing ninety minutes that were unquestionably among the most entertaining in Australian domestic football history.
None of the 17,514 that were in attendance will forget one of the truly exceptional Hyundai A-League encounters that will celebrate its one-year anniversary nine days after Saturday-s clash.
"The boys automatically pick up for this one," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.
"Sydney have been struggling the last few weeks but got a good result in Newcastle and they-ve jumped into third spot - that-s how tight it is.
"It-s a crucial game for both teams on Saturday, they-ll be flying high and full of confidence but we-re going along alright ourselves."
For all of the Hyundai A-League neutrals and sporting purists alike, encounters between the Mariners and Sydney FC will almost certainly deliver the best entertainment that Australia-s top-flight football competition has to offer.
In sixteen previous meetings between the Hyundai A-League-s nearest rivals, an amazing 54 goals have been scored, 25 of which have been slotted in the past four Hyundai A-League meetings between the two sides.
Aside from last season-s unforgettable 5-4 epic at Bluetongue Stadium, the Mariners- memorable history with their southern rivals includes the inaugural Hyundai A-League Grand Final, November-s unfathomable 3-3 draw at the Sydney Football Stadium and matches that have marked the competitive debuts of former Mariners drawcards John Aloisi and Mark Bosnich.
In total, the Mariners have scored five wins in clashes between the two clubs, suffered eight losses and drawn on three occasions.
"It-s a big game for us and a big game for Sydney and it all points to an entertaining clash," said McKinna.
"They-re a good team - it doesn-t matter what team they put on the park, they-re competitive, they-ve got a lot of experience on the park and they-re going to be a big threat.
"Mark Bridge always scores against us and they-ve got players all over the park that can hurt us - Corica, Aloisi, they all score goals.
"We-ll show them respect, but we-ll be getting stuck in as best as we can."
Central Coast Mariners vs. Sydney FC
Bluetongue Stadium - Saturday, 13 December 2008, Kick off 7pm
DOB 26 Nov, 1974
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The Mariners- Hyundai A-League season continues at their Bluetongue Stadium home on Saturday, 13 December against southern rivals Sydney FC. Kick off is at 7pm.
Tickets for this match are on sale from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.