The Central Coast Mariners faced a tough away trip to the Macarthur Rams on Easter Saturday and subsequently fell 4-2 in the PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's match of the round at Lynwood Park.
Macarthur Rams 4 (Mason Versi 25', 62', 65'; Kurdvan Abduljabbar 33') Central Coast Mariners Academy 2 (Duncan Stewart 16', Yerasimakis Petratos 27')
Macarthur’s Mason Versi bagged a hat-trick and caused the young Mariners plenty of grief in attack. Kurdvan Abduljabbar scored the other Rams' goal, while Duncan Stewart and Yerasimakis Petratos scored one each for the Mariners Academy.
Playing with their usual blend of skill, width and mobility, Central Coast dominated the early stages of the match. The first shot on target came in the second minute, when the Mariners' Reece Papadimitrios hit a rasping free kick from 25 yards. Rams' goalkeeper Ben Needham had trouble with the force of the shot and spilled the ball, but managed to recover just as the Mariners surged forward, hoping to tap home the rebound.
The Mariners were at it again in the 14th minute, when Steve Whyte tried his luck from long range; before Needham tipped over the bar another long-distance effort by Thomas Lyons.
With Central Coast playing with such verve and panache, a goal seemed inevitable and it took something special in the 16th minute to crack open the Macarthur defence. Some brilliant interplay between James Enticknap, Petratos and Brenton Fox created an opportunity for striker Duncan Stewart, who tapped home the opener from close range.
Macarthur held back and absorbed the pressure, but just when it looked like Central Coast were cruising, Macarthur struck against the run of play when in the 25th minute Versi bent a brilliant left-footed free kick past Mariners' keeper Adam Pearce to equalise.
Such was the helter skelter nature of the game that Petratos restored the Mariners' lead in the 27th minute, slotting home from inside the box.
Macarthur had their second in the 33rd inute when Kurdvan Abduljabbar fired past Pearce.
After an entertaining first half, the two sides went to the break level at two-all. Macarthur were happy to still be in the hunt, while the Mariners were probably disappointed that they weren't able to convert a number of opportunities created and have a convincing lead.
The second half started in much the same way as the first half ended. Petratos turned his man brilliantly a few minutes into the second spell, only to be denied by a great save by Rams keeper Ben Needham.
Even when Mariners livewire Peter Kekeris went off on a brilliant solo run just on the hour, bouncing his shot of the post, Macarthur wouldn’t be deterred.
A few minutes later that renewed focus paid dividends as Versi struck again. Versi controlled the ball with his head and flew past two defenders before unleashing a shot to give his side the lead for the first time.
Suddenly the unlikely appeared to be a possibility for Macarthur.
But the battle continued and no sooner had the home side gone ahead, two minutes later they lost focus on defence and conceded a penalty. Rams supporters groaned in disbelief as coach Eddie Briscoe lamented his side's immaturity. But in the end, it didn't matter as Needham pulled off a brilliant save to deny Mariners' forward Brenton Fox from grabbing the equaliser..
Versi took advantage and had his hat-trick in the 65th minute when he launched himself into a superb acrobatic volley that gave Pearce no chance. Perfect technique. Perfect execution. The Lynwood Park faithful couldn't have asked for more.
Central Coast continued to press and went on an all-out offensive. But as hard as the young men tried, and as many opportunities as they created, they just couldn't convert the chances that came their way.
In the end, Macarthur secured three points while the Mariners were again forced to ponder the unpredictable nature of developing young men in a league so competitive and relentless.
Mariners Academy Assistant Coach Will Vasquez was disappointed with his side's defensive lapses and inability to convert chances.
"I'm extremely disappointed in the way the game played out," Vasquez told Football NSW. "We created chances but at the end of the day you cannot defend like that. Conceding four goals we're not even going to be close. So (it was) very disappointing.
"They're just young boys and they're learning massively a very, very hard way. It's not easy for them to be losing these kind of games. There was still some good football. Some players did some really good things in attack but there were some big lessons for them (as well)."
The Mariners Academy are back at home this Saturday, hosting Bankstown Berries at Pluim Park. First Grade kick off at 6pm.
Saturday 15 April 2017
Referee: Roberto Mattei
Macarthur Rams: 20. Ben Needham (GK), 2. Craig Cooley, 3. Danny Lazarevski, 4. Simon Valastro, 7. Frank Martey (13. Alex Lazarevski), 8. Matthew Trotter, 10. Ben Cornish, 11. Damien Travis, 14. Kurdvan Abduljabbar (16. Mitch Di Pietro), 15. Mason Versi, 17. Sho Arakawa.
Unused Subs: 1. Nikola Bratic, 5. Regan Suters, 19. Jordan Ward
Yellow Cards: Matthew Trotter, Mason Versi
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Adam Pearce, 2. Shelford Dais, 4. Reece Papas, 6. James Enticknap, 8. Thomas Lyons, 9. Brenton Fox (5. Charles William), 10. Duncan Stewart, 11. Peter Kekeris (25. Sallu Kamara), 14. Sean Pratt, 15. Yerasimakis Petratos, 17. Jordan Lane (16. Gianni Stensness), 18. Steve Whyte
Unused Subs: 20. Aidan Munford
Yellow Cards: Shelford Dais 25', Jordan Lane 35'
Coach: Ben Cahn