Mariners Fizzle As ‘Nix’s Nick Points

A season high crowd of 11,137 couldn’t help the Mariners to a much needed victory when they took on the Wellington Phoenix in their traditional New Years Eve clash tonight.

A season high crowd of 11,137 couldn-t help the Mariners to a much needed victory when they took on the Wellington Phoenix in their traditional New Years Eve clash tonight.

Paul Ifill-s second-half brace was enough to ensure that the Central Coast Mariners would bid farewell to 2009 with a fifth consecutive loss.

"When you-re not winning games and not playing so well, that-s what happens. It puts you on the back foot a bit. We dropped a bit but then came into it, and we had a couple of good chances that we should have done better with but when you-re struggling, that-s what happens. It-s just disappointing," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.

There was drama before a ball was kicked with Brad Porter sending a scare through the camp when he went down clutching at an ankle during the warm-up.

There was enough doubt about Porter-s immediate involvement in the match that National Youth League defender Nathan Sherlock was pulled from the comfort of the stands as cover. Porter passed a last minute fitness test to take his place in the side.

A passage of promising passes from the home put Nik Mrdja into a gap in the opening minute of the match but the striker mistimed his run and he was correctly ruled offside.

Wellington had the first real chance to open the scoring in the third minute with a Troy Hearfield thunderbolt from 25 yards forcing Andrew Redmayne to make a diving save.

Former Mariner Adrian Caceres weaved a passage through the Mariners defence and while his pass didn-t find a teammate in a white jersey, Hearfield was able to pounce.

With 2010 just around the corner New Zealand World Cup aspirant Michael McGlinchey was keen to remind Ricki Herbert of his talents and in the tenth minute he was gifted a golden chance to make an emphatic statement.

A perfectly weighted cross from Brad Porter found McGlinchey-s head but he was unable to get enough power as he attempted to use gravity to propel the ball inside the near post.

From the ensuring play Wellington counterattacked and a Hearfield cross fell just short of a stretching Vince Lia.

A free quick in a promising position saw Nik Mrdja step up to try his hand at opening the scoring. Mrdja struck the ball with plenty of venom and the resulting deflection off the boot of Paul Ifill saw the ball pass agonizingly wide of the far post.

The Mariners seemed the team most likely to score at this stage of the match and a lovely weighted pass from Nicky Travis found John Hutchinson in the eighteenth minute. Unfortunately the Maltese international was unable to get enough power on his shot to trouble Liam Reddy.

Mrdja had another chance off a set piece to open the scoring but again dragged his stinging free kick across the face of the goal.

Wellington weathered the pressure and almost made the Mariners pay when Paul Ifill was able to ride a challenge from Bojic in the 26th minute. His shot hit with plenty of venom missed the near post by inches.

In desperate search of a goal Nicky Travis took matters into his own hand with a somewhat unorthodox attempt at a header from eighteen yards. It was a spectacular display of acrobatics but ultimately gave Reddy enough time to defuse the situation.

The first-half was half of missed opportunities for both sides and the final quarter saw a flurry of scoring chances for both sides.

For the Central Coast side Nik Mrdja almost opened the scoring when Matt Simon was able to head the ball into space. Only a diving Reddy thwarted the Mariners marksman. Michael McGlinchey also went close to scoring but again couldn-t quite get the angle on his final shot.

Wellington-s Tim Brown who had been kept quiet in the early stages of the match was able to beat his marker and supply a flighted cross that fell inches short of Lia and Adrian Caceres also tried his luck from distance.

Arguably the best chance of the half fell to Matt Simon who on the stroke of half-time thought he had earned a penalty. Replays confirmed that while contact occurred it wasn-t enough to warrant a penalty.

The action picked up immediately in the second half with a clumsy challenge from Bojic on Ifill in the penalty area saw Matthew Breeze point to the spot.

Ifill had no trouble converting the penalty and the Phoenix held a one-goal advantage over the shell shocked Mariners.

Five minutes later the Mariners should have been on level terms but Matt Simon was unable to convert a golden chance to equalise. The ball fell to his feet and with a subtle touch Simon was able to split the defence but from two yards, he tripped at the critical moment and couldn-t finish. It continues a long period of frustration for the Mariners 2008/09 golden boot winner.

Adrian Caceres was desperate to net a goal against his former club and that determination nearly paid off in the 59th minute with only the hands of Redmayne saving the Mariners from conceding a second goal.

It was time to introduce the cavalry and National Youth League skipper Panny Nikas was handed his Hyundai A-League debut and the Bluetongue faithful warmly welcomed the clubs newest player.

Try as they might the Mariners could not beat Reddy and the Wellington defence was able to contain the Mariners attack for the majority of the second half.

Paul Ifill put the result beyond doubt in the eightieth minute with his second goal coming after some strong lead up play from Caceres.

The Mariners had one final chance to salvage some pride from the game but McGlinchey was unable to get his left footed shot on target deep in regulation time.

"The boys have just got to get back to working hard and doing what we do best, get in teams faces and press them. Today I thought we sat off a bit and gave them a bit too much space, but we-ll get back on the training pitch, really put in a big effort, and we-ll turn it around against North Queensland," said Mariners goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne.

"That-s five games in a row now, but we can-t wave a magic wand to get the confidence back, it happens when you start winning games. You don-t go from being a good team five weeks ago to being a poor team," said McKinna.

It continues a month of frustration and heartbreak for the Mariners but the good news is, 2010 isn-t far away.

The Mariners- next home match of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season will be against North Queensland Fury on Saturday, 9 January. Kick-off is at 7:00pm. Tickets are available online here or by phoning 132 849.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 2.Matthew CROWELL, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Nik MRDJA, 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 15. Andrew CLARK (12 Matthew LEWIS 62-) 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. Matt SIMON, (11.Dylan MACALLISTER 64-) 22. Nicky TRAVIS (10. Panny NIKAS 69-)

Unused Subs 30. Matthew RYAN (GK)

Yellow Cards Simon 51, Mrdja 61- Red Cards None Goals None

Wellington Phoenix 40. Liam REDDY (GK), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 6. Tim BROWN, (5. Diego WALSH 74-) 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, (23. Costa BARBAROUSES. 84-)13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, (21. Marco ROJAS 90+3-) 17. Vince LIA, 22. Andrew DURANTE (C).

Unused Subs 20. Reece CROWTHER (GK)

Yellow Cards Mcain 58-, Hearfield 90+1- Red Cards None Goals Ifill 47-(pen), 81-

Referee Matthew BREEZE Crowd 11,137