Duke eager to return to starting XI

AT the start of the season Mitchell Duke led the line for the Mariners but since sustaining an ankle injury in a National Youth League fixture against Melbourne Heart, the attacking ace hasn’t featured in the first 11.

Mitchell Duke

AT the start of the season Mitchell Duke led the line for the Mariners but since sustaining an ankle injury in a National Youth League fixture against Melbourne Heart, the attacking ace hasn-t featured in the first 11.

There is healthy competition for spots all over the park and the role that “Dukey” plays in attack for Central Coast is no different.

In the past 10 rounds, Daniel McBreen has found the back of the net nine times, making him the most prolific marksman in the Hyundai A-League, yet there is still plenty of intra-club pressure from big performers for their turn in the starting side.

Central Coast Mariners are known for their club culture, which goes a long way towards instilling the confidence of their first 11 into their fringe players, resulting in a stronger overall squad.

“We have a lot of depth in the squad and we-re very confident going into this weekend against Melbourne Heart,” Duke said. “We have had boys out in the last two weeks for the Socceroos camp and we got two wins without them.”

In the past few weeks Duke has performed effectively as a substitute, staking his claim for another shot in the starting side.

In Hyundai A-League round 8, Duke came off the bench and created the assist for the winning goal against Adelaide United, showing his class while still recovering from a minor ankle injury.

Unsure of when his return to the first 11 may be, Duke is hopeful of a cameo appearance this weekend.

“We will see if I am on the bench this weekend,” he said.

“I am looking at getting a needle after the game and to be back 100 percent the following week.”

At just 21, Duke is battling with the likes of youngster Bernie Ibini, the more experienced McBreen, Mile Sterjovski and Adam Kwasnik for a place in the starting side.

Coach Graham Arnold has drilled his players in a particular way so that every player knows their role when they are called upon and any player can fit seamlessly into the team at any stage of the season.

Duke knows what he has to do on the weekend if given the chance, and does not underestimate Melbourne Heart who are unbeaten in their past three matches.

“They are going to be a very dangerous side with three boys back from international duty, and seeing how well they have done over the past three weeks their confidence will be high,” he said.

"I am ready."

Kick off for Friday night against the Melbourne Heart is scheduled for 7:30pm with gates opening at 6:30pm. Mariners Members can enter Bluetongue Stadium from 5:30pm for an exclusive Christmas function.

Central Coast Mariners vs. Melbourne Heart - 2012/13 Hyundai A-League Round 11 Friday 14 December, 2012 Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford Kick-off: 7:30pm (local) Tickets: Please CLICK HERE to purchase tickets to the match! Twitter: Join the match conversation on Twitter! The official match hash-tag for Sunday-s game is #CCMvMH