Houdini visits Bluetongue in Mariners great escape

The Central Coast Mariners and Gold Coast United have been forced to settle for a share of the points after playing out a tense 1-all draw in their week two meeting at Bluetongue Stadium tonight.

The Central Coast Mariners and Gold Coast United have been forced to settle for a share of the points after playing out a tense 1-all draw in their week two meeting at Bluetongue Stadium tonight. A cracking James Brown goal was cancelled out by a textbook header from veteran Patrick Zwaanswijk shortly before fulltime with the match played out in front of over 10,000 boisterous fans.

Head coach Graham Arnold was pleased that the Mariners- famed character was on display again tonight, but concedes that with an extended off-season every team in the competition are finding their feet.

“One thing about the Mariners is that even when things aren-t going well they will keep running and keep fighting right to the death, and thankfully tonight Patrick was able to get one for us at the end,” Arnold said.

Arnold was brutally candid about the style of the team-s play tonight.

“Our ball movement was too slow, and movement off the ball was almost non-existent. I don-t want to be in top form in October. It-s a long season, 27 games plus the Asian Champions League so it-s a chance for the players to get 90 minutes into their legs.

“The boys are sitting in the dressing room now quiet which is good as they-re setting themselves high standards. I would be more concerned if they were in their celebrating,” said Arnold.

Keen to enhance their ever-growing reputation as one of the league-s finest passing exponents, the Mariners hit the ground running. In defiance of the stifling humidity, the defenders and midfield linked seamlessly in a ruthless display of good interchange of passes that was a valiant attempt to run the visitors from the tourist strip ragged.

It wasn-t until the 10th minute that the home side wasn-t able to fire off their opening shot of the afternoon. A delicate through-ball allowed Matt Simon to unleash a powerfully struck volley from an acute angle. As good as the strike was, Gold Coast custodian Glen Moss-s save was even better with the experienced ‘keeper denying Simon with exceptional glove-work.

Gold Coast immediately hit-back with Adama Traore firing a tame shot straight at Mathew Ryan. It was to prove the visitor-s last foray into the Mariners- half for well over half an hour as the home side consolidated possession.

Neither side was able to manufacture any real chances in the closing stages of the opening half, although Gold Coast went closest with two late chances. First Ben Halloran scooped a shot over the bar, and former Mariner Dylan Macallister tested Ryan, but the Mariners- shot-stopper was well positioned comfortably snaffling the shot.

Both teams gratefully accepted the respite of the sheds at the halftime break as the players looked to recuperate their energy in pursuit of an elusive goal. Unfortunately for the Mariners- Gold Coast clearly listened to Miron Bleiberg-s address.

After barely troubling the possession stats in the opening half, let alone Ryan-s goal Gold Coast began the second half with renewed hunger and passion. Their enterprising play gained the ultimate reward in the 47th minute when James Brown struck home a stunning finish after some positive lead-up play from Traore and Macallister. Indeed it was the former Bluetongue favourite who made the goal providing an excellent cut-back pass that left Ryan stranded in the face of the stinging strike from Brown.

If Arnold was hoping the goal would wake the Mariners- up he was left disappointed. His charges were able to string passes together, but the final delivery into the box left a lot to be desired. In an effort to spark his attack, Arnold called in the cavalry in the form of Bernie Ibini, Troy Hearfield and Michael Baird. All three made telling contributions. Ibini won a corner with his first touch of the ball, much to the delight of the Bluetongue faithful while Hearfield provided some delicate crosses to his strikers, and Baird added some much needed pace at the pointy end of the field.

Defender Josh Rose is well known for his ability to push forward from defence and score goals from acute positions. Glen Moss was well aware of that fact as he calmly battered away a strong strike from the experienced player. It was turning into that sort of night for the home side.

One thing that the Mariners- will never do is surrender without a fight, and once again that proved to be the case tonight. In only his second Hyundai A-League match back after fighting back from a serious knee injury Brad Porter added his own chapter in the history of great Mariners- comebacks.

Deputising at centre-half for Alex Wilkinson Porter delivered a well-weighted cross right into the heart of the Gold Coast penalty box. Mesmerised by the high trajectory of the ball in flight the United defenders hesitated for a split second. It was indecision that would prove fatal as Patrick Zwaanswijk soared through the air above even his own teammate to head past a helpless Moss. The Dutch veteran who dabbles in magic tricks in his downtime pulled off an escape worthy of Houdini with his fourth goal for the club.

After leading for most of the second half, Gold Coast suddenly found themselves with seven minutes left to salvage a victory from the match. They threw everything at the Mariners as the match wound down into stoppage time, but the men in yellow and navy held firm. In the final seconds Rose pulled off an important interception that ultimately proved to be the game-s final play.

While it wasn-t the result the crowd was after Arnold said the players were very appreciative of what was one of the largest attendances in recent seasons.

“I would like to thank the crowd for coming out tonight. The support was fantastic and they made a lot of noise. The end was exciting so hopefully everyone can come back and continue to support us,” said Arnold.

Premierships aren-t won in October, and the Mariners are building slowly towards bigger and better things. The F3 derby against fierce rivals Newcastle Jets next Sunday afternoon could prove just the tonic.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Zwaanswijk 87-) Gold Coast United 1 (Brown 47-)

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Bradley PORTER, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK (C), 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 10. Adriano PELLEGRINO, (17. Michael BAIRD 70-), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, (12. Troy HEARFIELD 70-) 19. Matt SIMON, 23. Adam KWASNIK (9. Bernie IBINI 57-)

Subs not Used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (GK) Yellow Cards: Griffiths 36-, McGlinchey 47- Red Cards: None

Gold Coast United: 1. Glen MOSS (GK), 3. Michael THWAITE (C), 6. Paul BEEKMANS, 8. ROBSON, (9. Joel PORTER 74-), 12. Dylan MACALLISTER, (5. Kristian REES 90 + 4-), 13. Ante ROZIC, 14. Ben HALLORAN, (2. Joshua BRILLANTES 89-) 15. Adama TRAORE, 18. James BROWN, 22. Peter JUNGSCHLAGER, 23. Dylan MCGOWAN

Subs not Used: 20. Jerrad TYSON (GK) Yellow Cards: Robson 43-, Macallister 63-, Beekmans 71-, Rozic 75- Red Cards: None

Referee: Peter O-LEARY Crowd: 10,374 at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford