Mariners held in Wellington

The Central Coast Mariners have been held to an entertaining yet frustrating stalemate by the Wellington Phoenix, on a typically windy afternoon in the New Zealand capital.

The Central Coast Mariners have been held to an entertaining yet frustrating stalemate by the Wellington Phoenix, on a typically windy afternoon in the New Zealand capital.

Westpac Stadium threw up quintessential conditions for the clash, which ultimately saw neither team able to break the deadlock.

Full of confidence following their 3-nil win over the Gold coast last weekend, the Mariners started brightly enough, with Dylan Macallister forcing Mark Paston into action after just three minutes to pick out an on-target header, while Pedj Bojic found his way into the Phoenix area just seconds later.

The Central Coast thought they had taken what would have been a deserved lead 10 minutes in, when Nicky Travis played a neat one-two with Matt Simon before coolly finishing past Paston, only for the assistant referee to rule Simon had wandered into an offside position.

"We couldn-t see it because there is no replay, but we-ve just phoned back to Australia and they-ve told us it was offside.

"It was a great goal, it deserved to be a goal. From where we were sitting we thought Matty Simon had a man up his backside, but the report is that he was off. You are going to get breaks over the season, and they balance off.

"The Phoenix copped a goal in the 94th minute last week, so it balances off and we-ve got no complaints about that," Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna said.

Paston had to come charging off his line and well out of his area when Matt Simon played Nigel Boogaard into space down the right, as the Mariners continued to mount pressure on the Wellington back four.

The Phoenix began to get into the game slowly, and had arguably their best chance of the half on 27 minutes, when Paul Ifill shrugged off a defender to turn and shoot, but his blistering effort was well saved by a diving Danny Vukovic.

At the other end, Simon unleashed a cracking effort on the left edge after Dylan Macallister did well to bring the ball down and lay it off, Simon-s effort sure to leave Andrew Durante with a headache, after cannoning into the back of the Wellington skipper-s head.

Ifill was again in the thick of it from a corner, when the ball fell at his feet during a goalmouth scramble, Vukovic again up to the task with a good save low down.

Both sides were aiming to assert their dominance physically, with Durante and Ben Sigmund both finding their way into Michael Hester-s book, while former Mariner Adrian Caceres also came under scrutiny after going into the back of Pedj Bojic.

The Mariners had a final chance to take the advantage into half time, when Michael McGlinchey played John Hutchinson through, his cross finding Macallister in the area, who was unlucky to have his header blocked by the Phoenix defence.

Alex Wilkinson had to get in the way of an Ifill effort just two minutes after the resumption, and then had the chance to score his second ever A-League goal just minutes later, but Paston was equal to the task after the Mariners captain latched on to a Hutchinson free kick.

Dean Heffernan and Nicky Travis both saw shots clear the bar as the Central Coast continued to push forward, while Macallister had a shot blocked after neatly turning his original marker.

Another desperate scramble could have bore fruit for McKinna-s men just beyond the hour, Simon couldn-t quite get an outstretched leg to a Hutchinson free kick, and the clearance made it only as far as McGlinchey, the New Zealand international having his effort deflected inches wide in his home town.

The yellow and navy appeared to have a strong penalty claim in the 65th minute when Dylan Macallister clashed with Paston, however Hester saw it differently, booking the Mariners talisman for what he perceived to be simulation.

Paston produced a double save to deny both Macallister and Nigel Boogaard, as the match appeared more and more likely to end in a stalemate.

A Bojic free kick was parried by the Phoenix custodian as the Mariners continued to press, but time would prove the ultimate winner, the clock reaching 90 minutes before either side could find a breakthrough.

"Over the balance of the game, they had parts of the first half, they had a long stretch of the first half, I thought we had the bulk of the second half with a couple of half chances, without really creating, the same as Phoenix. In hard conditions, I think probably both defences were on top at the finish," said McKinna.

"Overall, I-m disappointed we didn-t win, but coming here is so many times, we could have copped a goal there, we-ve had another clean sheet, defensively we were sound, there was more keeping the ball going forward, and the conditions have a bit to do with that but we probably rushed things a wee bit going forward.

'It-s very hard for defenders to defend when it is swirling and sometimes the ball carries, some times it drops short. They have to be on their toes, so I think credit goes to them for nullifying the strikers.

"I still think we could have done a bit better with the ball, even though the conditions were hard, and we were away from home, at times we just rushed it.

"Even in the 93rd minute we still thought we could nick something. It wouldn-t have been good for Ricky, but we would have been pretty happy with it!" McKinna said.

"It wasn-t a pretty game, and probably wouldn-t have been too good to watch at home, but the conditions were pretty tough, they made it hard to keep the ball down and play a lot of times. The times we did it we looked OK, but we just didn-t do it enough," said Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson.

"All in all, a nil-all draw is probably a fair result, and from a defensive point of view I-m just happy we haven-t conceded another goal. Defensively in the last couple of games we-ve looked pretty strong, so pretty happy there."

The Mariners next home match of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season will be against North Queensland Fury on Sunday, 11 October. Kick-off is at 3:00pm. Tickets for this match are available online here or by phoning 132 849.

Mariners Memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season are now available online by clicking here or by phoning 1300 767 442.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 4. Pedj BOJIC, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON (23. Adam KWASNIK 74-), 22. Nicky TRAVIS (2. Matthew CROWELL 85-).

Unused Subs Matthew RYAN (gk), 15. Andrew CLARK.

Yellow Cards Macallister 65-, Wilkinson 90+1- Red Cards None Goals None

Wellington Phoenix 1. Mark PASTON, 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS (13. Troy HEARFIELD 84-), 8. Paul IFILL (21. Marco ROJAS 74-), 9. Chris GREENACRE, 14. Adrian CACERES (23. Costa BARBAROUSES 57-), 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c).

Unused Subs 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk).

Yellow Cards Durante 37-, Muscat 42-, Brown 71- Red Cards None Goals None

Referee Michael HESTER Crowd 6,769