All roads lead to Melbourne for Mariners Youth

The curtain may have fallen on the Mariners’ Hyundai A-League campaign for another season but for the players in the National Youth League, three rounds remain as the Young Mariners chase a maiden finals berth.

The curtain may have fallen on the Mariners- Hyundai A-League campaign for another season but for the players in the National Youth League, three rounds remain as the Young Mariners chase a maiden finals berth.

In their last outing in the rescheduled match against F3 rivals the Newcastle Jets, Tony Walmsley-s charges turned in arguably their worst performance of the season as they crashed to a 4-1 home defeat.

Mariners head coach Tony Walmsley was typically forthright when discussing the last game.

"Sometimes you have to credit the opposition and the Jets deserved a win last time out. We have bounced back well from previous losses and I expect the same this time", Walmsley said.

It was a lone goal from striker Gavin Forbes that saved the Mariners the embarrassment of their biggest defeat of the season. It was a performance that was uncharacteristically jaded from the home side that were out enthused by a determined Newcastle team, who to their credit, took the game to the team from the Central Coast.

The bye has been both a blessing and a curse for the Young Mariners who have been able to re-energise ahead of the crucial final weeks, but have also seen their position slide down the ladder.

In a sign of their attacking intentions, the Young Mariners have been busy strengthening their squad during their week away from the game with the addition of Mitchell Duke from the PCYC Parramatta Eagles. Coach Walmsley believes the striker will add more attacking options at a critical time of the season.

"Mitchell Duke from PCYC Parramatta Eagles has signed for the NYL squad as a replacement player. Duke is a pacey and skilful striker, has been training with the team and will add to the attacking options at a crucial time," Walmsley said.

The last few weeks have also seen many of the Mariners Youth players rewarded for the good form of their side. In the final weeks of the Hyundai A-League season Mitchell Mallia, Panny Nikas, Nick Fitzgerald, Brady Smith, Matthew Lewis and Bernie Ibini-Isei were all given game time in the seniors. Nathan Sherlock was picked to travel to New Zealand but suffered an ankle injury and was forced out, a bitter blow for the Orange junior.

The Youth players all made solid contributions to the A-League and are hoping to bring back that knowledge and experience as the battle for Youth honours heats up. The fact that so many players have been given a taste of professional football is a just reward for a side that has performed consistently and one of the strengths of this youth side is that these players can make the step up to a higher level.

"We have three very tough games to go, but our destiny is in our own hands. More importantly, with a strengthened squad and fewer distractions for the players, their focus is clearly back with the youth program," Walmsley said.

It is encouraging signs for the future, but it is the here and now that most concerns the Young Mariners.

Perth Glory now holds the league-s most coveted ladder position with the Mariners trailing by a single point. If the Mariners want to make a serious play for the title of premiers the next three matches are critical, starting with this Saturday-s encounter with the Melbourne Victory.

Traditionally, matches against their rivals south of the Murray have been rugged affairs. Their last encounter in December is a case in point. Both sides refused to give an inch over a 90 minute battle with the Mariners just able to sneak home the points.

Melbourne, while still a mathematical chance of making the finals, are out to end their recent form slump having suffered two consecutive losses against the Australian Institute of Sport and Sydney FC.

The Mariners are hoping to put aside the frustration of their last outing and get back to winning ways.

With both sides desperate for a win the match has the makings of a brilliant game of football.

“We need to qualify for the finals, which is probably one win away, but with a real opportunity to win the premiership. With a bit of luck we may even surpass our goals for the year,” Walmsley said.

Sunday-s clash with Melbourne Victory will be the 6th competitive clash between the two clubs and the third of this campaign.

Previous Meetings

Sat, 11 Oct 2008 Central Coast Mariners 2 Melbourne Victory 1, Bluetongue Stadium. Sat, 22 Nov 2008 Central Coast Mariners 1 Melbourne Victory1, Bob Jane Stadium. Sat, 17 Jan 2009 Central Coast Mariners 2 Melbourne Victory 1, Epping Soccer Stadium. Sun, 8 Nov 2009 Central Coast Mariners 1 Melbourne Victory 4, Veneto Club. Sat, 12 Nov 2009 Central Coast Mariners 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Bluetongue Stadium.

Melbourne Victory squad: Matthew DEMO, Diogo FERREIRA, Petar FRANJIC, Stephen HATZIKOSTAS, Antonio LA VERDE, Sebastian MATTEI (gk), Bradley NORTON, Luke PILKINGTON, Stefaan SARDELIC (gk), David STIRTON, Craig SWEENEY, Simon TOLLI, Tedros YABIO *Two to be included

Unavailable: Nil

Central Coast Mariners squad: Mathew RYAN (GK), Nik MATIC (GK), Matthew CROWELL (OA), Shane HUKE (OA), Panny NIKAS (C), Adam ORMSBY, Matthew LIDDALL, Jerry KALOURIS, Luka DUKIC, Brendan GRIFFIN, Nick FITZGERALD, Matthew LEWIS, Bernie IBINI-ISEI, Gavin FORBES, Mitchell MALLIA, Manny GIANNAROS, Scott McGINLEY.

Unavailable: Nil

Referee: Kevin Docherty

The Central Coast Mariners National Youth League team are in action against the Melbourne Victory FC this Saturday, 20 February at Epping Soccer Stadium, Melbourne. Kick-off is at 3:00pm AEST.