Mariners claim clean sheet against Phoenix

Despite a late surge of attacks on the Wellington Phoenix goal, the Mariners have rounded out 2017 with a 0-0 draw in front of a 9000-strong crowd at Central Coast Stadium.

Central Coast Mariners 0 Wellington Phoenix 0

The run down

A tight battle between the Mariners and the ‘Nix saw both teams take a point from Central Coast stadium in Hyundai A-League round 13.

It kicks off a busy festive season that now sees the Mariners play on January 6 (Melbourne Victory in Geelong), January 9 (Jets in Newcastle) and January 14 (Melbourne City at home).

Despite a scoreless first half, neither team went wanting for opportunities. For the Central Coast, Connor Pain and Andrew Hoole made for a dangerous combination in the front third. Within the first ten minutes, Hoole cut through the ‘Nix defence with a pass to Pain on a burst of speed, but the winger’s low shot fired wide of the post.

Asdrubal was a mainstay of the Mariners’ attacking forays, the speedy Spanish forward worked tirelessly to create space, and was narrowly denied a goal in the 20th minute by a timely tackle from Andrew Durante at the near post, after Pain sent a precision ball across the box.

The visitors did not stay quiet, and shot-stopper Ben Kennedy was forced to stay razor sharp. ‘BK, who ultimately earned man of the match honours, made save after save to deny Wellington forwards Krishna and Kaluderovic, his outstretched gloves to claim another cleansheet.

Wellington were handed a clear opportunity to steal the lead in the 32nd minute. Kaluderovic teed up Thomas Doyle directly in front of goal, but Doyle sent the ball up an over the crossbar.

Neither team could break the dead-lock, and returned to the pitch after the half-time break hoping to claim the lead.

The second-half stayed quiet in the opening minutes, but the Mariners looked poised to claim a goal. Half way through the second stanza, the Central Coast had an injection of pace and intensity with substitutes Storm Roux, Blake Powell and Kwabena Appiah, who helped to launch a series of relentless attacks.

Roux and Pain carved through the Wellington defence on the left flank, Roux’s long-distance strike curling wide and a direct shot from Pain landing in Italiano’s lap.

In the 81st minute, Blake Powell looked set to fire home a volley from close range, but he couldn’t get on top of an awkwardly bouncing ball, and the chance was swept away by Marco Rossi.

The final moments of the game were laced with tension as the Central Coast kept up a punishing attacking pace. Kwabena Appiah created multiple clear cut chances in the dying stages with his blistering pace, but just couldn’t find the back of the net.

The home crowd urged the Yellow & Navy on, right until the final whistle but the home side just couldn’t break Italiano and were forced to settle for a point against Wellington.

Paolo in the press

“In the first half we struggled to break them down. It was quite clear that Wellington came to not lose, or just for a point, and they managed to catch us out on one or two transition moments where maybe, on another night, we concede,” Okon said. “In the second half, we pushed and pushed, right until the end, we made some changes, brought fresh legs on, which made a difference.

“In the end, we were hoping that we were going to get that opportunity. It was certainly through no lack of effort, we got into those areas, but it happened far too often where we weren’t able to find that final pass or cut back or cross to put someone in front of goal – it’s something we are aware we need to improve on. We end the year with a point, and we look forward to 2018. January is going to be a busy month for us, five games against some of the best teams in the country, but we’re looking forward to that and hopefully we can get back to scoring goals, and post some more wins.

“It’s tough for the best teams in the world to break down not only a back five, but often it was their whole team in their own half. We got in behind them, and Pain’s half-chance came from a beautiful pass, and good initiative from Connor to get in behind, but it was difficult. You know the moment you lose the ball and you’ve got too many players forward -  Krishna is certainly dangerous on the counter, and that can play on your mind when you know even the slightest mistake could cost you, which is not easy to deal with. In the second half we sort of changed it a bit, Hooley went out wide and Daniel was allowed to float. For the first fifteen minutes of the second half we looked really flat, but we got back into it and if any team was going to score, I think it would have been the Mariners.

“BK gives us that experience and that calmness. I could say that’s why you put a keeper in goals – to save the ball. Not only tonight but most of the games he’s really played his part, and we’re delighted for him the way he is going. We feel he could improve a lot more, which is great, because right now he’s performing wonderfully.

“Kabsy [Kwabena Appiah] was really unlucky not to start tonight. He came off against Adelaide with cramps, and we didn’t think he had recovered enough in time to start the game. We always planned that we would bring him on, and we always felt that Kabsy could give us that impact coming off the bench. He probably could have been the difference if he had finished it off, or passed it back to Daniel instead of trying to dribble and shoot. Kabsy is another one who has improved so much, and he is a real threat for us. He is going to get his chance to start in more games. January is a busy month, we play three games in eight days, we’re going to have to rotate a bit, so Kabsy will get his chance again.

“The focus now is to recover, the players will have two days off and will hopefully spend that with their families. Then we will have a three-day lead into the Victory game, it’s a bit of travel down to Geelong. I’ve been told that Melbourne will be quite hot. Everyone is healthy at the moment, but we lose a few through national team commitments. It will be a tough period for us, but we’re confident that if we prepare, and we believe we can go to Melbourne and beat Victory, and then there is a tough Derby three days later. They’re the kind of games you want to be playing, so I’m quite confident that the players will recover and prepare for those games.

“I think the biggest disappointment for us was that we weren’t able to get a goal on this special evening, but the support, not only tonight, but the whole season, has been fantastic. We look forward to seeing the supporters again in the New Year, and hopefully we can win some more games in 2018 at home,” Okon said.

Central Coast Mariners: 1.Ben KENNEDY(gk), 4.Jake McGING, 5.Antony GOLEC, 6. Tom HIARIEJ, 7.Andrew HOOLE (13. Kwabena APPIAH 78’), 9. ASDRUBAL(8. Blake POWELL 68’) 10. Danny De SILVA, 11. Connor PAIN, 15. Alan BARO, 21. Kye ROWLES (2. Storm ROUX 68’), 23. Wout BRAMA

Substitutes not used: 18.Tom GLOVER (gk) &16. Liam ROSE

Wellington Phoenix: 1. Lewis ITALIANO (gk)m 2. Daniel MULLEN, 3. Scott GALLOWAY, 4. Goran PARACKI, 9 Andrija KALUDEROVIC, 10. Michael McGLINCHEY, 13. Marco ROSSI (6. Dylan FOX 88’), 19. Thomas DOYLE, 21. Roy KRISHNA (12. Andrew PARKHOUSE 79’), 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Matthew RIDENTON (18. Sarpreet SINGH 90’+4)

Substitutes not used: 30.Keegan SMITH (gk), & 14. Alex RUFER

Yellow cards: Marco Rossi 24’

Sunday, 31 December 2017
Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Crowd: 9110
Central Coast Mariners vs. Wellington Phoenix