Mariners’ late show ends regular season on a high

An 89th minute strike from Patricio Perez has given the Central Coast Mariners a dramatic 1-nil victory over their F3 rivals, the Newcastle Jets in tonight’s Week 27 Hyundai A-League encounter.

An 89th minute strike from Patricio Perez has given the Central Coast Mariners a dramatic 1-nil victory over their F3 rivals, the Newcastle Jets in tonight-s Week 27 Hyundai A-League encounter. Fittingly it was the Mariners 50th goal scored in the campaign, the most the side has ever achieved in its history, and a crowd of nearly 10,000 braved the torrential conditions to give the Mariners a rousing send off in their final hit-out before the finals.

Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold was pleased with the result given the trying conditions that both sides experienced.

“I thought overall it was a very good performance,” said Arnold.

“The patience and discipline we showed in the second half was very pleasing. In the past we would have gone too gung-ho in search of a result.

“Newcastle made things difficult for us by putting players behind the ball, but in the end we had seven or eight good chances to their one, and we took it well so I think we deservedly won the game.

“We spoke before the game that we haven-t kept a clean sheet for a while. Our focus has been on a strong defensive structure and today it was very good. The conditions weren-t easy tonight, a lot of rain and strong wind meant there were some loose touches and passes, but overall I think we played well.

“At the start of the season we set ourselves the goal of conceding one goal a game. We missed out on one but to score 50 in a season, and concede only 31, I-m very proud of their efforts.”

With a match up against Brisbane looming, the last thing Arnold wanted was for any injuries out of tonight-s game.

“I-m relieved we got through the match with no injuries, I had a bit of a sleepless night last night. I actually gave some players who have played a lot of minutes the opportunity not to play today. They all wanted to play because they didn-t want to break their momentum, and even when Wilko got that knock I asked him if he wanted to come off but he never wants to come off.”

Confirmation arrived shortly before kick-off that Wellington-s win over North Queensland meant that the Newcastle Jets wouldn-t feature in the finals. However the news didn-t deter the Jets or their supporters from taking the game to the home side. After all this was an F3 derby.

It was an interesting opening to the match with both sides content to sit back and try and control possession. With a greasy surface, and with passes skidding on, this caution was justified. The swirling wind benefited the Mariners who settled into their rhythm first.

With replays of Wayne Rooney-s heroics in the Manchester derby doing the rounds this morning, Ryan Griffiths did everything he could to repeat the dose in the F3 version. His execution wasn-t as well timed as the English striker, but the crowd appreciated his efforts as he crashed to the Bluetongue turf.

Oliver Bozanic was at his probing best in the opening exchanges as he constantly drew in Newcastle defenders, creating space for strikers Daniel McBreen and Bernie Ibini-Isei to exploit. Ibini-Isei who impressed with his starting debut on Wednesday night against the Gold Coast was striking up some nice partnerships with his senior counterparts.

The Mariners got their first scoring chance on the match in the 20th minute when Patricio Perez stepped up to deliver a free kick from a dangerous position. The resulting effort swerved and dipped viciously, but couldn-t swing inside the far post.

It was the first of three clear-cut first half chances for the Argentine playmaker whose confidence has grown now that he has been able to get consistent game time under his belt.

Sixty seconds later a beautiful touch from McBreen released Ibini-Isei who laid off for Perez in a sublime passage of play. Newcastle custodian Ben Kennedy was able to dive late and deny the Mariners the opener, but the message to their fiercest rivals was clear the Mariners were here to play.

Captain Alex Wilkinson sent a scare through the camp when he went down clutching at a knee, but the experienced defender shrugged off the concern with typical toughness, and nearly notched the third goal of his 140-game career. Wilkinson showed tremendous agility to evade his marker and head wide an in swinging Perez corner.

The Jets enjoyed a period of sustained possession in the middle part of the half but were unable to manufacture any real chances. Committed defending from the Mariners hardworking midfield of John Hutchinson, Bozanic, Michael McGlinchey and Perez made sure that the Jets had to fight to get deep into the home side-s territory. Mat Ryan showed tremendous presence of mind to rush out and dive on a loose ball to thwart the visitors only real scoring chance of that period.

As they have for much of the season the Mariners calmly weathered the onslaught, and went on to create another two good chances - both for Perez before halftime. The first was after some outstanding lead up play by Josh Rose, who again showed why his attacking skills are so highly rated by his teammates, and the second in the twilight of the half should have been the opener. The dynamic midfielder couldn-t quite his body into position when he received a pass at the edge of the box and his resulting volley sailed harmlessly over the bar.

The rain continued to fall steadily at halftime, but the re-laid surface of the Bluetongue pitch held up to the strain well with no obvious pools of water. Understandably though the efforts of the first half had taken its toll on the players, with many from both sides backing up after midweek fixtures, and the tempo was noticeably slower in the second half.

Undeterred and with pride at stake, the Jets set about trying to catch the Mariners off guard. A snapshot seconds after the resumption of play failed to trouble Mariners custodian Mathew Ryan. It was the Jet-s fast men who really tried to exert pressure on the Mariners defence in the opening period of the second term. Labinot Haliti and Ali Abbas were trying their best to spur their team into action.

The home side continued to press forward but running into a strong headwind began to take its toll on the free-flowing attacking style that the Central Coast prefer to play. Tarek Elrich took a shot from distance but Ryan had become acclimatized to the conditions and had it well covered.

Marko Jesic had two strong chances to put the visitors in front in the 64th and 66th minutes, but on both occasions was denied by outstanding passages of play from the home side. In the first instance Patrick Zwaanswijk put his body on his line to not only pull off a textbook last ditch challenge, but was able to recover his feet and clear the ball out of danger.

Minutes later Ryan supported the efforts of his veteran defender by producing an outstanding save to deny Jesic. It was pure athleticism and anticipation from the rookie ‘keeper and would ultimately help him to his 12th shutout of the campaign.

For the second time in the match, the home side weathered the onslaught and spent the final third of the match trying to break down their opponents.

First Zwannswijk had a chance with a glancing header, before Pedj Bojic couldn-t get a shot away under pressure from the Newcastle defence. Adam Kwasnik was a constant threat but he too was struggling to pick up targets with the final touch. Kwasnik looked most likely to score, but Nikolai Topper Stanley had other ideas desperately blocking a goal-bound shot shortly before fulltime.

It appeared that the match was heading for a tame draw, but in front of a crowd that included some of the men who had helped create the Mariners famed never-say-never attitude, the current crop of players had their own surprise in store.

Graham Arnold opted to leave Perez on when he introduced Mustafa Amini into the attack, and the move proved to be a masterstroke. Amini was full of his typical enthusiasm and he produced some classy touches in his fifteen-minute cameo.

Amini-s growing reputation certainly attracted the attention of the Newcastle defenders, and it was this that would cost the visitors in the end. With three defenders converging on the youngster in the final minutes of regular time, he calmly fed a pass to an unmarked Rose.

Rose continued the movement by providing a pinpoint cross across the face of goal. Waiting in the box patiently was a queue of unmarked yellow and navy shirts. The ball eventually fell to the foot of Perez who gratefully accepted the spoils and tapped in his 6th goal for the club.

A win against one of their greatest rivals was the perfect way to consign the 2010/11 home and away season to the history books.

For Graham Arnold and his men the hard work is only just beginning. Arnold has a very simple message.

“We will be ready.”

The Central Coast Mariners first match of the Hyundai A-League 2011 Finals Series will be against Brisbane Roar this Saturday, 19 February at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford. Kick-off is at 7:00pm AEDT and Tickets will be on sale to Mariners Members from 9:00am tomorrow, Monday, 14 February, to the "FFA's Football Family" from Tuesday, and to the General Public on Wednesday at or by phoning 132 849.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Perez 89-) Newcastle Jets 0

Central Coast Mariners: 20. Mathew Ryan (gk), 2. Daniel McBREEN (22. Mustafa AMINI 78-), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON (16. Trent SAINSBURY 90+2-), 10. Patricio PEREZ, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 24. Bernie IBINI-ISEI (23. Adam KWASNIK 61-).

Subs not used: 30. Paul HENDERSON (gk).

Yellow Cards: Hutchinson 61- Red Cards: None

Newcastle Jets: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Taylor REGAN, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPER STANLEY (c), 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 14. Labinot HALITI (13. Sasho PETROVSKI 70-), 16. Jeremy BROCKIE (18. Marko JESIC 61-), 19. Ali ABBAS (31. Jacob PEPPER 81-), 23. Ryan GRIFFITHS, 28. Mario SIMIC.

Subs not used: 40. Matthew NASH (gk).

Yellow Cards: D-Apuzzo 25-, Simic 71-, Pepper 90+2- Red Cards: None

Referee: Chris BEATH Crowd: 9,975 at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford.