Central Coast Mariners fired yet another warning shot to the rest of the PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's competition with a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Premiership favourites Marconi Stallions at Bossley Park on Sunday.
Marconi Stallions 1 (Sean Rooney) Central Coast Mariners 3 (Lachlan Wales, Brenton Fox, Duncan Stewart)
Lachlan Wales, Duncan Stewart and Brenton Fox scored for the victors, while Sean Rooney pulled one back for the vanquished.
Central Coast entered the game as the hottest team in the competition, scoring 15 goals in their last three matches and conceding none. But the trip to Bossley Park was considered to be one fraught with danger, one where a talented and experienced Stallions lineup had the potential to give the youngsters their sternest test yet - if not something of a footballing lesson.
But it wasn't to be and instead, the apprentices schooled the masters.
Hoping for a strong start, Marconi were shocked as Mariners' dynamo Lachlan Wales struck home the opener after a nice buildup down the right flank. The clock had barely ticked past one minute of playing time and already the youngsters were one goal ahead.
The goal stunned Marconi but this is the kind of thing the Mariners have been doing for the past month or so, playing with skill, speed and precision and most importantly of all, finishing their chances.
Marconi had an opportunity to equalise in the third minute but Mirjan Pavlovic's touch let him down and the opportunity went begging.
In the 16th minute Marconi's Judah Cleur floated in a nice cross for Sean Rooney who tried to chest the ball to Pavlovic. But again, the opportunity was lost and again Marconi came up empty handed.
A minute later, Wales threaded a perfect pass to Fox whose low cross was cut out by the Sky Blues' defence just in the nick of time. The classy Mariners Number 7 was causing the Stallions plenty of grief with his skill and tenacity in the midfield.
In the 22nd minute Cleur had perhaps the Stallions' best chance of the half, but an unforgiving bounce from a lovely Christopher Nunes cross saw his effort sail over the bar.
Both sides had their moments but for a period of around 15 minutes Marconi dominated possession and played some excellent football. The Stallions also created plenty of half-chances that on another day might have bore some fruit. But not today. This ended up being the Mariners' day.
And just on the half hour mark the visitors showed why it was their day when Duncan Stewart extended their lead to 2-0. A perfect one-two between Wales and the impressive Shelford Dais saw the powerful yet nimble right back send in the perfect low cross for Stewart to tap home from close range.
Perfect buildup. Perfect finish. Two-nil Mariners.
But the young guns weren't finished and just six minutes shy of the break, sharpshooter Brenton Fox slotted home to extend his side's lead to 3-0. The Stallions didn't know what had hit them.
The sanctuary of the dressing sheds couldn't come quick enough for Marconi, who knew they faced an uphill battle to close the gap in the second half.
But the respite provided by the halftime break didn't last long as Cenral Coast laid siege on the Marconi goal immediately after the restart, creating a few chances but not quite adding the finishing touch.
The Mariners' pace and precision was a joy to watch, and at times exhibition-like, but their inability to take advantage of their chances in the second half gave the Stallions some confidence.
The longer the score stayed at 3-0, the more confident the home side became. And slowly the Sky Blues played their way back into the game, with Rooney and Pavlovic at the forefront of an unlikely comeback.
Rooney missed a golden opportunity to pull one back in the 54th minute, his usually reliable radar strangely amiss.
Then Mariners goalkeeper Adam Pearce pulled off a miracle save from close range in the 64th minute. Three minutes later Rooney did what he does best, and struck home a free kick virtually from the goalline.
Marconi 1 Mariners 3. Was this the beginning of a comeback?
Marconi took the game to the Mariners and four minutes later Pearce showed his brilliance yet again, this time denying Pavlovic. The young gloveman jilted Pavlovic again in the 81st minute, forcing the Stallions' Number 7 to look on in dismay as he stopped a fair effort from long range.
In the end, the Mariners proved to be up to the task and held on for a comfortable 3-1 victory.
As expected, Mariners coach Ben Cahn was delighted with his side's performance, and paid tribute to their growing maturity.
"Early on in the year we were very fragile and we would have lost this game," Cahn told Football NSW. "Maybe we didn't play as nicely as we did earlier in the year but we've certainly grown a lot and shown really good maturity levels in the last few weeks.
"It's been a constant evolution. I completely believe in these young players but for them it was a harsh five or six games early on but we kept drumming home the same messages, we slightly adapted the playing style at times to suit this league, but we keep believing in what we do and hopefully it will continue.
"Coming away to a side on top of the league - big club, good players - that's a really big result for us."
When asked to name his standouts, Cahn replied: "It was a hungry team performance. Nobody was shy of their responsibilities but you have to keep looking at Duncan Stewart and Brenton Fox who are now both among the top three goalscorers in the league. You could name them all. They all played well today."
Central Coast Mariners Academy are back at home this coming Sunday when they host Blacktown Spartans FC at Pluim Park. Kickoff in 1sts is at 3:00pm.
Sunday 4 June 2017
Marconi Stallions: 1. Nenad Vekic (GK), 4. Dhari Alsaad (2. Stefan Dubocanin), 5. Michael Beauchamp, 19. Eros Bergamin (25. Sam Burfoot 75'), 12. Judah Cleur, 10. Marko Jesic (11. Sam Perre 65'), 23. Christopher Nunes, 7. Mirjan Pavlovic, 14. Peter Pelekanos, 8. Sean Rooney, 22. Brandon Vella
Unused Subs: 21. Kristian Sekutkoski, 40. Billy Nunes
Yellow Cards: 23. Christopher Nunes 56'
Coach: Peter Tsekenis
Central Coast Mariners Academy: 1. Adam Pearce (GK), 2. Shelford Dais, 6. James Enticknap (4. Reece Papadimitrios), 9. Brenton Fox (11. Peter Kekeris 82'), 3. Michael Glassock, 12. Jack Kuipers, 8. Thomas Lyons, 16. Gianni Stensness, 10. Duncan Stewart (15. Yerasimakis Petratos 45'), 7. Lachlan Wales, 18. Steve Whyte
Unused Subs: 20. Aidan Munford, 5. Charles William
Yellow Cards: 9. Brenton Fox 79', 1. Adam Pearce 90+2
Coach: Ben Cahn
- U20s LOST 1-2
- U18s WON 4-0