The Mariners dominated proceedings at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday night, but were unable to find a late winner in a 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory.
Gianni Stensness came back into the starting side from an injury absence, while Dan Bouman also started the game and Josh Nisbet began the clash on the bench.
The ladder leaders started the match well but were caught out 20 minutes in from a set piece in midfield. There was confusion as the linesman flagged for offside and the referee’s whistle blew, but it was in fact for a Victory free kick.
The ball was sprayed wide to McManaman, now in space, and he drove into the box before firing into the far corner.
But the hosts responded well to going behind, and it took only 11 minutes for an equalising goal. Bouman did brilliantly well to dummy and turn his marker on the right wing, and burst into space. He played Marco Urena in behind with a perfect pass and the Costa Rican made no mistake, firing across Matt Acton to pull the Mariners level.
Bouman was in inspired form and won a free kick as he beat Traore to a ball on the edge of the box, but Jack Clisby’s effort clipped the wall and the ball pinballed around before Urena fired just over.
Nisbet replaced Stensness at the break and the Mariners came out firing and looking for a goal, and six minutes into the second half they came oh so close.
Urena and Simon put massive pressure on the Victory backline and Simon got to a slow backpass first to beat Acton but his effort drifted agonisingly close before the Victory cleared.
A home crowd of 5,730 roared the Mariners on as they pushed, and chances came and went including an effort from Oliver Bozanic that fizzed just over the bar with Acton beaten.
Michal Janota and Alou Kuol were introduced with time winding down and the Mariners pushing for the win, while Victory appeared content to slow the game right down and take a point.
Clisby forced one last save from Acton as he tipped an effort over the bar but it was not to be as the visitors clung on to grab a share of the points.
For the Mariners, the boys now focus on a game against Adelaide at home on Friday that is sure to be full of emotion after the last meeting between the two.