Mariners end regular season with win

CENTRAL Coast Mariners have finished the final round of the regular Hyundai A-League season in fine fashion, earning a 2-1 win over a ten-man Melbourne Heart outfit at Bluetongue Stadium on Easter Saturday.

CENTRAL Coast Mariners have finished the final round of the regular Hyundai A-League season in fine fashion, earning a 2-1 win over a ten-man Melbourne Heart outfit at Bluetongue Stadium on Easter Saturday.

A 34th minute penalty from leading Hyundai A-League marksman Daniel McBreen combined with a goal from substitute Mitchell Duke after the interval ensured the yellow and navy claimed their 11th home win of the campaign and extended their dominant record over the red and whites.

In nine A-League meetings with Heart the Mariners have now won seven times, Heart just once, while the two clubs shared the points on the other occasion.

With a busy schedule of AFC Champions League commitments and Finals Series football ahead, Mariners boss Graham Arnold gave a debut appearance to Brad McDonald, as well as opportunities to shine to the likes of Anthony Caceres and Brent Griffiths.

The trio made the most of their chance to star in the first team, with each playing solid matches against John Aloisi-s side.

It was a cagey start to the encounter with relatively few clear-cut opportunities created by either side.

The first opportunity of the match fell to marauding right back Pedj Bojic 11 minutes in as he struck a left foot shot on target but failed to trouble Heart custodian Clint Bolton, with the ‘keeper making a comfortable save.

The visitors had a delightful opportunity to open the scoring on the 27-minute mark via the boot of Richard Garcia. The Qantas Socceroo delivered a low shot at goal from range. Fortunately for Arnold-s men, Mariners shot stopper Justin Pasfield produced a diving save to his right to deny the ex Colchester United creator.

Melbourne continued to press and were nearly rewarded for their efforts as Josip Tadic came close to breaking the deadlock soon after as he fired a right foot effort from outside the box. However, Pasfield was once again up to the task and provided an impressive save to thwart the Heart attack.

However, things turned disastrous for the red and whites in the 34th minute as Patrick Gerhardt was given his marching orders after a handball on the line.

Subsequently, the Mariners were awarded a penalty by referee Jarred Gillett with Hyundai A-League leading goal-getter McBreen netting his 17th goal of the campaign, as he struck his powerful effort high past Bolton.

Local junior Oliver Bozanic had a chance to double the advantage for the yellow and navy just before the interval as he fired a neat left foot effort from close range. However, Bolton made the save.

Both coaches decided to make changes with about half an hour remaining in the contest. Former Mariner Dylan Macallister replaced Tadic while pacey attacker Duke was introduced for Nick Fitzgerald.

Arnold-s substitution proved to be a masterstroke with Duke doubling the advantage for the home side in the 64th minute. Caceres made a mazy run through midfield before poking a pass to Duke who finished neatly past Bolton.

Duke was back in the thick of the action only moments later as he came close to adding to his goal tally but Simon Colosimo was in the right place at the right time to clear the ball to safety.

McDonald had a great opportunity to add emphasis to the score line shortly after as he sent an impressive curling effort from the edge of the area just past Bolton-s right post.

The away side opened their account in the 73rd minute via the boot of Garcia, who found the net for the sixth time this season. The Mariners dawdled on the ball at the back before Jamie Coyne found Garcia who hit the back of the net.

The yellow and navy continued to press as the clock wound down but the goals from McBreen and Duke proved enough for Arnold-s men to extend their dominant record over Heart.

Following the match Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Arnold praised his side-s regular season, noting that statistically his team had performed better this campaign than last.

“If you look at the stats we-re a better side than what we were last year,” Arnold said. “The stats show that we-ve had a very strong year and we-ve developed some good youngsters.”

“Overall I am happy with the season. It took a side who got 34 points out of 36 to beat us over the line.”

The Mariners have two fixtures against China-s Guizhou Renhe in the AFC Champions League to look forward to in the coming ten days - matches Arnold believes will provide perfect preparation for the team-s sudden death semi-final fixture at Bluetongue Stadium on Sunday 14 April.

“It was important for us to finish in the top two,” he said.

“It-s (the Finals) going to be tough, and we-re fortunate that we-ve got the ACL to keep us ticking over because the week off can damage teams at that time of the season. You can lose your rhythm a bit so we-re fortunate that we do have the ACL to keep us ticking over.”

“It-s been a great season by us. I-ve just got to keep the boys working hard over the next month and we-ll see what comes of it.”

Central Coast Mariners play their next match against China-s Guizhou Renhe at Central Coast Stadium on Wednesday 3 April. Tickets are available from Ticketek.

Central Coast Mariners 2 (McBreen 35-), (Duke 64-) Melbourne Heart 1 (Garcia 73-) Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners: 20. Justin Pasfield (Gk), 2. Daniel McBreen, 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Zachary Anderson, 6. Patrick Zwaanswijk (c), 11. Oliver Bozanic, 13. Brent Griffiths (24. Hayden Morton 88'), 15. Brad McDonald, 17. Anthony Caceres (8. Adriano Pellegrino 79'), 21. Mile Sterjovski, 29. Nick Fitzgerald (19. Mitchell Duke 60') Substitutes not used: 1. Mathew Ryan (Gk) Yellow cards: Caceres, Anderson Red cards: Nil

Melbourne Heart: 1. Clint Bolton (Gk) (c), 4. Simon Colosimo (36. Eli Babalj 88'), 6. Patrick Gerhardt, 8. Matt Thompson, 10. Josip Tadic (9. Dylan Macallister 57'), 11. Richard Garcia, 15. David Williams, 16. Marcel Meeuwis (17. Jason Hoffman 42'), 19. Ben Garuccio, 21. Jamie Coyne, 24. Sam Mitchinson Sub