The Central Coast Mariners Academy First Grade, Under 20s and Under 18s all qualified for finals football in the PS4 NPL 2 after an impressive season across the board.
On Sunday afternoon, the Central Coast Mariners Academy’s final match of the campaign was played in testing conditions which saw Ben Cahn’s first grade side earn a gutsy 1-0 win to finish fourth on the ladder.
The fourth-placed finish sets up a mouth-watering clash against the North Shore Mariners in a winner takes all finals battle of fourth vs. fifth.
Both the under 20's and first grade sides will play at Lilys Football Centre. The 20's kick-off against Hills United FC at 2pm followed by First Grade who kick-off at 4:30pm against the North Shore Mariners.
The 18s side, who were crowned Premiers weeks ago have earned the week off and the 20s finished third who will now face Hills United (third vs. sixth).
Sunday’s win over Spirit FC proved crucial in the league standings on the final day of play and a strike by the in-form Brenton Fox in the 20th minute was enough to take three points from Sydney United Sports Centre.
A late surge of horrendous weather acted as a leveller with both teams having enough chances to cause late drama but Fox’s goal was enough in the end for Cahn’s side to finish fourth.
Central Coast Mariners Academy 1 (Brenton Fox 15’) v Spirit FC 0
Central Coast Mariners Academy: 1. Christopher Marques 2. Shelford Dais 3. Michael Glassock 6. James Enticknap 8. Thomas Lyons 9. Brenton Fox 10. Duncan Stewart (7. Lachlan Wales) 11. Peter Kekeris (4. Joshua Nisbet) 12. Jack Kuipers 16. Gianni Stensness (15. Yerasimakis Petratos) 18. Daniel McFarlane.
Spirit FC: 80. Jack Greenwood 2. Daniel Cunningham 4. Michael Streeter 5. Andrew Robertson 7. Jacob Harris (10. Chris Gomez) 8. Grant Cornwell 9. Chris Godoy Boscur (22. Andre Schroeder) 12. Louis Bozanic 14. Andre Carle 17. Ryan Johnstone 21. Zoran Kolundzic (18. Brad Gibson).
“We were in good control over the first 30 minutes and looked very comfortable,” Cahn said. “Foxy scored a great free-kick and from then we were just looking for that second goal.
“With about 20 minutes to go in the second half momentum shifted, Spirit grew in confidence but we managed to resist and hold out well.
“We missed our fair share of chances on the counter-attack in the second half and whilst they had chances to get back in the game we had plenty of chances to finish them off. It could have gone either way in the end but we just did enough which was good.
“We have spoken a lot about maintaining concentration and positioning defensively so it’s great to have kept a clean sheet. It’s ironic that a clean sheet secured our position in the finals, not a four or five goal thriller that we usually have – but it’s pleasing and should give the boys confidence heading into the finals,” Cahn said.
This Sunday the Mariners Academy now face their North Shore counterparts who disposed of the Western Sydney Wanderers Academy 6-1 on Sunday.
The Central Coast Mariners Academy have played out two exciting end-to-end matches against the North Shore this season ending 4-3 (to North Shore) and 2-2 during the regular season.
Cahn is confident that if his side execute the game plan they can progress further into the finals series. Results pending, the winner will play the first or second placed St George or Marconi.
“It’s great to have two Mariners sides competing in the finals [North Shore & Central Coast]," Cahn said.
“Congratulations as well to the under 18s and under 20s – we talk about culture and togetherness but the three teams are one squad. There is lots of movement between squads for certain players so it really is a collective effort to get all three into the finals, it’s fantastic.
“The Central Coast is a region that is notorious for producing good local footballers, this year is no exception,” Cahn said.