The Central Coast Mariners Academy Men’s side hosted Mt Druitt Town Rangers on Saturday afternoon and kept their finals hopes alive with a 2-1 win at Pluim Park.
Prolific attackers, Duncan Stewart and Brenton Fox fired home the goals to claim a result that puts them just one point behind fourth-placed Western Sydney (and Mt Druitt) on what remains a congested NPL 2 ladder.
It took Stewart just 11 minutes to bag the Yellow & Navy’s first goal of the night when he pounced on a defensive mix up and chipped the goalkeeper.
The Mariners went into the break a goal up but Mt Druitt struck back in the 56th minute with a screamer from outside the area.
Locked at 1-1 the Mariners showed character to keep playing attacking football and had their reward through Fox who rounded the keeper not long after to claim three points.
With just two rounds remaining before the end of the regular season, Ben Cahn's young Mariners will be eager to win their final games to secure a spot in the six. They face Bankstown City at bumpy Jensen Park followed by a Spirit FC outfit with their own aspirations of playing finals football. Not to mention a game in hand where they still need to face the Western Sydney Wanderers Academy in a rescheduled fixture.
After finding their feet in the PS4 NPL 2 the Mariners Academy have become renowned for playing brilliant football and scoring goals for fun. Indeed, with Stewart, Fox and Lachlan Wales slotting home like clockwork, they embarked on an unbeaten streak of seven games.
Lately though, with first team training commitments, tactical adjustments made by their opposition, and the odd injury, the Mariners have won just two of their last six, including Saturday's last gasp win over the Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
Cahn has always believed in his boys. Even when they started the season slowly earning just seven points from a possible 30, his belief never wavered. Not once. And he always offered positive advice and praise. His belief in the team, their style of play and the role he played in their development as young professionals, soon became "their" belief and for a glorious period between rounds 11 and 17 they were irresistible. Invincible almost. They played with youthful verve and won five straight, including a 3-1 victory over Marconi, a score line that not only flattered the recently-crowned Premiers, but also remains the Stallions last loss of the season. They scored a ridiculous 22 goals while conceding a measly three.
Saturday's win over a well drilled Mt Druitt outfit seeking to extend their own unbeaten run to five matches will give the young Central Coast side a boost in confidence going into the business end of the season. But they'll need to keep winning if they're to clinch a spot in the playoffs.