Nick Montgomery and the Central Coast Mariners Men’s 1st grade side will be keeping a watchful eye on proceedings in the NSW NPL2 this weekend as they sit out with the bye.
A thumping win over St. George last weekend lifted the Mariners back over NWS Spirit into first place on the table, but they will now watch from afar as second-placed Spirit host third-placed Northern Tigers in a crucial battle on Saturday night.
Montgomery’s men have beaten both of those teams already this season, including putting eight goals past Spirit in a Pluim Park shellacking, but costly draws and an unexpected loss in Week 6 have them firmly entrenched in the battle for first.
A Tigers win or draw would set up a huge final weekend, with the Mariners still ahead of both teams and matching up against Bonnyrigg at Pluim Park to seal the Premiership.
The U/20’s, part of the same squad pool under Montgomery and Sergio Raimundo, put themselves on the top of the ladder too with a 4-1 win against the Jets in a rescheduled match on Wednesday, but they will remain on top ahead of the final weekend regardless of results this round.
While Montgomery knows the team has not won anything yet and there are kinks to be ironed out in their form, the first grade side have blazed a trail through the competition, scoring an average of 3.8 goals a game through their nine contests so far.
Matt Cahill and Damian Tsekenis sit first and second respectively in the race for the Golden Boot, while at the other end Dan Hall has repeatedly drawn plaudits for his leadership and important presence in the backline.
The disappointment of seeing other Academies promoted to NPL1 before a ball was kicked in the restart is a factor that has been used to drive this team, and it’s a fact that Montgomery knows his side can prove a point with continued strong results.
Montgomery and Raimundo will use this weekend for an in-house game to bring a number of players back up to match fitness after niggles and injuries during the season, with the view of having close to a full strength group available for the final weekend against Bonnyrigg.
With a finals berth secured and nursing a number of injuries too, Dan Barrett and the Mariner’s Women’s side now have two bye weeks on the sideline, with plenty of time to prepare and regather their form ahead of a semi-final in a few weeks’ time.
After Betsy Blackwood’s winner last weekend a spot in the four was confirmed, and Barrett indicated that the next two weeks would be far from rest and relaxation.
“We need to train more in the heat,” he said earlier this week.
“With spring here we need to be better acclimatised to playing football in warmer weather.”
“If we can get ourselves to that point and manage the conditions better than the other three teams in the finals, then it could be the edge that we need through those games.”
The Women’s Reserves side will also have the next two weeks off with byes and having confirmed a spot in the finals already.