Mariners draw strength from derby opener

The Central Coast Mariners have opened their fourth Hyundai A-League campaign with a heartening 1-1 draw against northern rivals the Newcastle Jets in a keenly fought Grand Final replay at EnergyAustralia Stadium this evening.

The Central Coast Mariners have opened their fourth Hyundai A-League campaign with a heartening 1-1 draw against northern rivals the Newcastle Jets in a keenly fought Grand Final replay at EnergyAustralia Stadium this evening.

Matt Simon-s first Hyundai A-League goal for the Mariners - less than eight hours after touching down in Sydney from Beijing, looked to have secured the visitors the points, only for Joel Griffiths to draw the home side level in the last minute of regulation time from the penalty spot.

This late flurry of goals was the highlight of a derby that wasn-t so much a classic, but a fitting showcase of what the Hyundai A-League can expect from its two regional combatants in 2008/09.

Significantly depleted by the absence of as many as six first eleven candidates, the Mariners will take a lot from what was a spirited performance against the reigning Champions at their home base - so often an unhappy hunting ground for visiting sides.

However, the yellow and navy will also lament what could have been, having looked to have snatched a famous opening day victory until as late as the 90th minute.

"Overall, we would have been happy to come here with the team that we had on the park and to come away with a point and it-s turned out that way, but it-s hard to take after giving away a silly penalty at the end," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.

"The first half we felt comfortable, there weren-t a lot of goal scoring opportunities but we had the better of the play and in the second half they had us under the pump for about 25 minutes.

"We gave the ball away too easy, but we weathered that and from when Matty scored, we should have been able to close out the game."

Neither side could claim total bragging rights of a cagey first stanza that failed to produce any significant goalmouth action.

With Dylan Macallister in the grandstands with a rib injury and Nik Mrdja and Simon occupying the substitutes bench due to a lack of match fitness or having only just negotiated a ten-hour flight respectively, the Mariners- attacking responsibility fell largely at the feet of the clubs season three Golden Boot winner Sasho Petrovski.

Petrovski, though isolated on occasion up front, toiled hard and challenged consistently despite being vastly outnumbered by his gold clad counterparts.

With solid support from wide players Adrian Caceres and Ahmad Elrich, in addition to regular searching runs from wingbacks Andrew Clark and David D-Apuzzo, the Mariners loomed as perhaps the most likely to break the deadlock.

The war of attrition that underlined the opening half was quickly addressed in the second, as both sides opened up in search of a goal to secure three precious derby points.

It was the Mariners that initially came closest when some deft invention from Petrovski supplied John Hutchinson with a gilt-edged chance only centremetres from goal, only for the hardworking midfielder to skew his effort into the path of Jets ‘keeper Ante Covic.

For the remainder of the half, the Jets were constant threat to the Mariners goal without tellingly providing custodian Danny Vukovic with many nervous moments.

In truth, Vukovic was untroubled for the most part thanks to the tireless defensive efforts of captain Alex Wilkinson and Hyundai A-League debutant Pedj Bojic, who time and time again would foil the Jets- forward advances with text book defending of the desperate variety.

The match opener came from an unexpected source, with Simon nodding home Bojic-s headed centre with three minutes still to play following a steady period of domination from the Jets.

The relief on Simon-s face was immediately palpable - the local marksman belatedly notching his breakthrough strike in the Hyundai A-League after a standout rookie season that yielded all but a goal.

Within moments, however, the Mariners were humbled when Griffiths stepped up to convert a penalty that was won after Bradley Porter - who was otherwise one of the Mariners- strongest performers, brought down Tarek Elrich on the fringe of the penalty area.

"Between the two teams there was some good football played in front of a good crowd on a cold night with a wee bit of excitement at the end," said McKinna.

"We had a lot of boys missing tonight and credit to the boys that were out there, they worked hard.

"Hopefully next week the likes of Boogaard, Heffernan and Macallister can rejoin the squad and we can start to get stronger over the coming weeks."

The Mariners- Hyundai A-League 2008/09 campaign continues at their Bluetongue Stadium home on Saturday, 23 August, when they host southern rivals Sydney FC. Kick off is at 7pm.

Tickets for this match are on sale now from all Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - or via phone on 132 849.

Mariners Memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are now on sale at

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Bradley Porter, 6. David D-Apuzzo, 7. John Hutchinson, 10. Adrian Caceres (9. Nik Mrdja 88-), 15. Andrew Clark, 17. Matthew Osman, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 21. Ahmad Elrich, 22. Sasho Petrovski (19. Matt Simon 67-)

Unused Subs 13. Paul O-Grady, 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk)

Yellow Cards None Red Cards None Goals Simon 87-

Newcastle Jets 1. Ante Covic (gk), 2. Adam Griffiths, 5. James Holland (18. Noel Spencer 79-), 8. Matt Thompson, 9. Joel Griffiths, 10. Jin-Hyung Song, 11. Tarek Elrich, 12. Jobe Wheelhouse, 13. Adam D-Apuzzo, 16. Ben Kantarovski, 23. Edmundo Zura (15. Jason Hoffman 67-)

Unused Subs 17. Antun Kovacic, 20. Ben Kennedy (gk)

Yellow Cards None Red Cards None Goals Joel Griffiths 90-P

Referee Matthew Breeze Crowd 16,079