Crunch Time: Mariners Youth keen to break Pluim Park hoodoo

The Mariners ended their away commitments for the regular season with a frustrating 1-all draw to the Melbourne Victory last weekend. Now their attention turns to renewing their rivalry with geographical rivals, the Newcastle Jets.

The Mariners ended their away commitments for the regular season with a frustrating 1-all draw to the Melbourne Victory last weekend. Now their attention turns to renewing their rivalry with geographical rivals, the Newcastle Jets.

Last Saturday-s result saw the Young Mariners stay in touch with Perth Glory on the National Youth League ladder, but Tony Walmsley-s charges can be forgiven for thinking they deserved more out of the game.

The Mariners dominated possession and field position in the match against the Victory, and in another positive sign the team was regaining their sting in defence frustrating the Victory strikers all afternoon. The Mariners, while creating plenty of chances of their own didn-t open their account in the 90th minute, courtesy of a penalty from captain Panny Nikas.

The Mariners thought that the job had been done and that they had managed to scrape three valuable points, the Victory had other ideas. From the resulting kick-off the Victory counter-attacked and found a way through the Mariners defence to score an equaliser. It was heartbreak for the young Central Coast side, but a very valuable footballing lesson on the eve of the finals.

Striker Gavin Forbes believed the team had done enough to win the game with the late penalty.

"I thought we dominated the game and that we scored what looked to have been a late winner and we switched off and they got a goal on the break. It was a hard blow to take because we didn-t expect it to happen," Forbes said.

"Everyone was frustrated with conceding that goal and heads dropped and we all apologised to each other. At the end of the day it-s a team performance and everyone has to put their hands up and say we were at fault for what happened. We-ve just got to turn it around and not dwell on it."

Forbes also stressed that the team-s defence across the park, an area of real strength for the side throughout the season was starting to regain the form that helped the Mariners to the apex of the ladder for much of the season.

"We-ve been working on our defence all year and I think lately it-s starting to gel and we-ve come good. In the Melbourne game our defence was probably our strong point. We managed to keep them under control and they didn-t really look too dangerous. They got that one shot because we switched off," Forbes said.

As the Young Mariners prepare to face the Newcastle Jets for the second time in as many weeks, the challenge for the side is the break one of the more bizarre curses in the NYL. In two seasons of the NYL, the Mariners have not won a home match at Pluim Park. The situation is reminiscent of another famous curse in Australian football.

In the lead-up to the 2006 World Cup qualifiers comedian John Safran gained attention from the Australian football community when he journeyed to Mozambique to break a curse placed on Australian football three decades previously. The legend is the Australian players couldn-t afford to pay for the witch doctor they had asked to put a curse on the Rhodesian players. The Australians won the first game but the curse was reversed back onto Australian football as result of the players being unable to come up with the $1000 fee. It-s history now that Australia headed to Germany in 2006.

With the premiership on the line, and the two regular season games at a venue the side has never won at the Mariners Youth may well need to channel the spirit of the witch doctor.

While Safran ended the Socceroos curse with a ritual of chicken blood in Mozambique followed by a cleansing ritual with clay at Telstra Stadium, the Mariners can end theirs by playing good football. Although given the fact that the team has an unbeaten record at Bluetongue Stadium this season, it may be worth considering spreading some of the sacred turf at Pluim Park before the match.

The Mariners turned in their worst performance of the season when they took on the Jets two weeks ago, and they-re desperate to avenge the result of that midweek clash. Striker Gavin Forbes is anticipating another tough game against one of their fiercest rivals.

"It should be a very similar game when we take on Newcastle this weekend to what it was the last time we played each other. They-re a decent football side that didn-t have results go their way in the early part of this season.

"I think it will be a tough game against a good side. With their first grade team not playing this weekend they may even drop down players so we-re expecting another tough, close game against them," Forbes said.

With Mariners desperate to break their Pluim Park hoodoo, valuable competition points on the line, and against a side who are coming off a big defeat in their last outing all signs point to an enterprising game of football.

Saturday-s clash with the Newcastle Jets will be the sixth encounter between the Mariners and their northern F3 rivals, and the third of this campaign.

Previous Meetings

Fri, 24 Oct 2008 - Central Coast Mariners 0 Newcastle Jets 4, Bluetongue Stadium. Fri, 26 Dec 2008 - Central Coast Mariners 4 Newcastle Jets 2, EnergyAUstralia Stadium. Fri, 30 Jan 2009 - Central Coast Mariners 2 Newcaslte Jets 1, Adamstown Oval. Fri, 23 Oct 2009 - Central Coast Mariners 6 Newcastle Jets 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium Tues, 9 Feb 2010 - Central Coast Mariners 1, Newcastle Jets 4, Pluim Park

Central Coast Mariners Youth squad: Nik MATIC (GK), Mathew RYAN (GK), Panny NIKAS (C), Matthew LEWIS, Adam KWASNIK (OA), Brad PORTER (OA), Shane HUKE (OA), Matthew CROWELL (OA), Brendan GRIFFIN, Mitchell MALLIA, Bernie IBINI-ISEI, Brady SMITH, Nick FITZGERALD, Mitchell DUKE, Matthew LIDDALL, Scott McGINLEY, Adam ORMSBY, Gavin FORBES, Jerry KALOURIS. *four to be omitted*

Unavailable: Nathan SHERLOCK (ankle - 3 weeks), Manny GIANNAROS (groin - indefinite)

Newcastle Jets Youth Squad: Will ANGEL, Damian BROSQUE, James FOGARTY (gk), Jon GRIFFITHS, Fabian IACOVELLI, Adrian KARAKOLEVSKI, Robbie KOLAK (gk), Brodie MOOY, Jason NAIDOVSKI, Jesse PINTO, Taylor REGAN (c), Jarrad ROSS, Matt SIM, James VIRGILI, Mario SIMIC *one to be included*

Unavailable: Nil

Referee: Kurt Ams

The Central Coast Mariners National Youth League team is in action this Saturday 27th February when they take on the Newcastle Jets at Pluim Park, Lisarow. Kick-off is at 4:00pm AEST.