Clinical finishing sinks Canberra’s cubs

A brace from striker Mitchell Duke, and a clinical strike from Jimmy Oates have helped the Central Coast Mariners to a comprehensive 3-nil victory over the Australian Institute of Sport in the deferred Week 7 National Youth League encounter at Pluim Park this evening.

A brace from striker Mitchell Duke, and a clinical strike from Jimmy Oates have helped the Central Coast Mariners to a comprehensive 3-nil victory over the Australian Institute of Sport in the deferred Week 7 National Youth League encounter at Pluim Park this evening.

It was the Young Mariners second consecutive home win and sees the defending premiers rocket into third position on the table. Confidence in the camp is sky-high as attention switches to a clash with the second placed Brisbane Roar on Friday.

Head coach Tony Walmsley was pleased that his charges have now notched up two consecutive wins after a frustrating 1-nil loss to Melbourne just before the Christmas break.

“Significantly it-s now five wins from six games which is very pleasing. The AIS kept the ball very well, but I felt that we never in any real danger today,” said Walmsley.

“We showed good composure throughout today, I thought at times in that second half we were a bit sloppy especially with our distribution but I put that down to fatigue. We-ve been training very hard this week. To back up like they did in humid conditions and on a heavy pitch was very pleasing.”

A brace from striker Mitchell Duke was a just reward for a player who plays whole-heartedly every time he takes the pitch.

“It-s a good reward. He works hard for the team and is a good finisher. He-s a livewire and very difficult to contain. He was a bit unlucky with the header that went to the ‘keeper but he finished his chances well,” said Walmlsey.

With the knowledge that a victory would see them soar up the ladder into third position, the Mariners had plenty of motivation going into the game. Trent Sainsbury and Marc Warren were confronting their former club for the first time, and were keen to impress after missing the last meeting between the two sides whilst they were away on international duty.

“In any short season if you can string a couple of wins together you-re a good chance of moving up the ladder, and conversely if you have a couple of losses it can bring you back into the mix.

“It-s the first time all year that the boys have spoken about their position on the ladder in the change room, so with a chance to go second if we beat Brisbane I think we-re in a good position with six games to go,” said Walmsley.

Keen to continue their rich display of form from last Tuesday-s encounter with the Newcastle Jets, the Young Mariners fashioned the first chance of the match in just the 5th minute. It was a familiar combination of Bernie Ibini-Isei and Nick Fitzgerald involved in the lead up, with the warning shot coming off the boot of Matt Lewis.

With both sides content to maintain possession it wasn-t until the 18th minute when the match saw its next scoring opportunity. For the AIS Jake Barker-Daish fired off a quick shot that was off-target, while the resulting counter attack saw Fitzgerald fire a tame shot straight at AIS ‘keeper Aaron Lennox after some promising work from Mitchell Duke.

The match was crying out for a goal, and Duke duly obliged netting the opener for a second successive week. Marc Warren pushing forward whipped in a strong cross that Lennox was unable to handle, fumbling straight into the path of Duke who had little trouble driving it home.

Chances were few and far between in what for the most part was a tight first half, and for the AIS both of their next two came from Barker-Daish. The first of which forced Mariners custodian Paul Henderson into a smart save.

Duke went close to doubling the lead in the 40th minute after a radar-like cross from Lewis zoned in on his head, but was unable to find a way to beat Lennox. The Young Mariners had one final chance in the fading seconds of the half but a sensational reflex save from Lennox conspired to deny Ibini-Isei after he volleyed a perfectly timed cross from Trent Sainsbury.

The Mariners were forced to settle with just the lone goal.

A tactical change at halftime saw Sam Munro and Alex Mansueto introduced into the match. Munro made his presence felt with a long range shot that saw replacement ‘keeper Paul Izzo have a nervous few moments when he juggled the dipping ball.

Barker-Diash thought he had done enough to net a reply for the visitors when he struck a free kick in the 50th minute, only to be denied by a spectacular one handed save by Henderson.

The close shave spurned the Mariners into action, and Duke scored a magnificent goal five minutes later to give the home side a deserved two-goal buffer. Sensing danger AIS custodian Izzo rushed off his line to try and place pressure on the speedy striker. Showing remarkable poise, Duke calmly held the ball up, wrong-footed Izzo and drove it home for his seventh goal of the campaign.

Not content with a 2-goal lead the Young Mariners were keen to press home their advantage, and Duke who was in sensational attacking form went agonizingly close to netting a hat-trick when he dragged a shot across the face of goal moments later.

Sam Gallagher is a captain who likes to lead from the front, and his header in the 70th minute forced a goal -mouth scramble that the AIS did well to thwart.

It was left to Jimmy Oates to seal the points in the 79th minute when he produced a clinical finish to drive low after an incisive run turned the AIS defenders inside out on the edge of the box.

There was one nervous moment for the Mariners. A strong volley from substitute Anthony Proia forced Henderson to make a strong diving save. In fairness though, a composed, and at times ruthless defensive structure meant that the Mariners were rarely troubled by the AIS attack.

Indeed the visitors were primarily reduced to firing opportunistic shots from distance, such as was the commitment shown by the Young Mariners, who once again benefited from the experience of Hyundai A-League veteran, Chris Doig.

Nick Fitzgerald and Matt Lewis both had lat chances to put the hosts further ahead. That they were unable to mattered little.

The Mariners ran out comfortable winners with a deserved victory, and a mouth-watering clash with the Brisbane Roar looms on Friday.

“It-s all about recovery between now and the match, and looking back we turned in a really good attacking performance last time we played them, so we will be looking to replicate that,” said Walmsley.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners1 (Duke 27-, 55-, Oates 79-) Australian Institute of Sport0

Central Coast Mariners:30. Paul HENDERSON (gk), 5. Jimmy OATES, 7. Brendan GRIFFIN (4. Alex MANSUETO 46-), 8. Nick FITZGERALD, 9. Bernie IBINI-ISEI, 10. Mitchell DUKE, 12. Matt LEWIS, 14. Trent SAINSBURY, 17. Sam GALLAGHER (c), 18. Marc WARREN (3. Jerry KALOURIS 59-),19. Chris DOIG (6. Sam MUNRO 46-).

Subs not Used:20. David BRADASEVIC (gk).

Yellow Cards:Kalouris 69- Red Cards:None

Australian Institute of Sport:1. Aaron LENNOX (gk) (30. Paul IZZO (gk) 46-), 3. Kevin DAVISON, 7. Jesse MAKAROUNAS, (25. Anthony PROIA 60-), 8.Jason GERIA, 9. Aaron PETERSON, 10. Jake BARKER-DAISH, 14. Patrick DIXON, (2. Jake MONACO 60-), 15. Corey BROWN, 16. Milos DEGENEK, 18. Yianni PERKATIS, 21. Connor CHAPMAN (c) (5. Scott MELLISH 60-).

Subs not Used:Nil

Yellow Cards:Brown 81- Red Cards:None

Referee:Kurt AMS