Mariners make goalless return home

The Central Coast Mariners first match at Bluetongue Stadium in six weeks has ended in a scoreless draw with Perth Glory, although the result keeps them unbeaten at home, and safe inside the top four.

The Central Coast Mariners first match at Bluetongue Stadium in six weeks has ended in a scoreless draw with Perth Glory, although the result keeps them unbeaten at home, and safe inside the top four.

Neither side would have came out of the match thinking they deserved more, and Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna conceded the point was something both sides deserved.

"Probably a fair result for both teams, although they probably edged us on clear cut chances. I felt we were a bit flat, and I don-t think we were tight enough in the first half in supporting the strikers, we never held the ball well enough up front," said McKinna.

"In the second half I felt we kept the ball a bit better, created a few things, got the ball moving a bit more and limited Perth to a few chances on the break."

Chasing a third straight win for the first time since round 13 of the 2007/08 Premiership winning season, the Mariners started brightly back in front of the Bluetongue Stadium faithful, Brad Porter put a great cross in from the right, and Nik Mrdja-s volley was unluckily deflected for a corner inside the opening 10 minutes.

The visitors, coming off the back of a 2-nil victory over Sydney, were looking to break into the top four themselves, and had a great chance when Mile Sterjovski delivered a good ball in from the right for Victor Sikora, who shot high and wide with his first touch.

The Central Coast thought they had taken the lead on 25 minutes when Matthew Crowell-s quickly taken free kick was met by Adam Kwasnik, and a fine first time finish past Tando Velaphi was soured by assistant referee Sarah Ho, who correctly ruled the former Wellington Phoenix marksman had strayed into an offside position.

The Mariners defence has been the subject of heavy praise this season, and the back four was again impressive throughout the opening 45 minutes, Alex Wilkinson and Nigel Boogaard strong in the air, while fullbacks Dean Heffernan and Brad Porter were having little trouble with the Glory-s wide men.

Perth did finished the half slightly more dominant though, Naum Sekulovski took the ball to the byline and cut the ball back neatly, but the Mariners defence was quick to clear the danger, while seconds later, Qantas Socceroo Mile Sterjovski unleashed with a stinging drive from 35 yards, only to see it rocket into Danny Vukovic-s right hand upright, meaning the honours would remain even at the interval.

Lawrie McKinna-s half time speech seemed to stir the hosts into action, Kwasnik putting a good ball through forcing Jamie Coyne to put Velaphi under pressure with a risky backpass, the Perth custodian managing to clear under heavy pressure from Nik Mrdja.

A minute later Kwasnik was again involved when he played a lovely ball over the top for Mrdja, who played a first time ball over Velaphi, his goalbound effort cleared late though by Chris Coyne.

Danny Vukovic has been in fine form of late and was on hand to keep his side in the hunt on 51 minutes, when he reacted brilliantly to get down low and save Adriano Pellegrino-s point blank header at the near post, after a good ball in from Naum Sekulovski.

Andy Todd had to make two good interceptions as the Mariners pressed, the veteran Englishman first heading away a good ball in from John Hutchinson for a corner, before making a last ditch tackle to stop Matt Simon in his tracks, after picking up a Kwasnik pass and taking it into the area.

Vukovic was once again the hero on 67 minutes, Victor Sikora was wheeling away in celebration after he thought he had slid home a Branko Jelic cross at the near post, only to realise the Mariners ‘keeper had managed to get an outstretched boot on it and send it wide of the far post.

The stalemate was beginning to get to Sterjovski, who went into Mr Parsons- book after denying Simon the chance to take a quick free kick, before getting involved in a minor set-to.

Matt Simon had a gilt edged chance to find a late winner for the home side when he latched on to a good ball in from Nicky Travis on the left, however his header sailed agonizingly wide of the far post.

The Central Coast had a final opportunity to wrap things up through Ahmad Elrich, but it wasn-t to be, as his injury time strike cleared the crossbar.

So, the Mariners remain unbeaten at home this season, but may have felt they missed an opportunity to move clear of the chasing pack.

"No goals against, and it-s a point against one of the teams around about us, who are a good side at full strength, so a few positives, but we can improve a lot," said McKinna.

"They-re a good team, they beat Sydney last week 2-nil, and they had three of their strongest players coming in, so they are a stronger team (tonight), than the team that beat Sydney.

"Danny (Vukovic) made one great save, and the one that he got a toe in off Sikora, but Matty Simon should have done better with the header, we had a few shots from the edge of the box, but we didn-t have clear cut chances," McKinna said.

Mariners captain, Alex Wilkinson, who marked his 100th Hyundai A-League appearance, agreed with his manager-s assessment.

"The first 30 minutes we played decent, moved the ball around quite well without creating anything," said Wilkinson.

"As Lawrie said we probably needed to get the ball to stick more up front, to get our midfield players involved. In the last 20 minutes we started to lose a bit of shape, and that-s when they had a few half chances.

"In the second half, we kept the ball a bit better, huffed and puffed but didn-t create too much, but neither did they. A reasonable draw, but looking back if we lifted 10 or 20 percent we could have won it," Wilkinson said.

The Mariners- next home match of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season will be against Melbourne Victory on Saturday, 12 December. Kick-off is at 7:00pm. Tickets are available online here or by phoning 132 849.

Mariners Memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season are now on sale by clicking here

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 2. Matthew CROWELL (22. Nicky TRAVIS 71-), 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 9. Nik MRDJA (19. Matt SIMON 55-), 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 23. Adam KWASNIK (21. Ahmad ELRICH 76-).

Unused Subs 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK).

Yellow Cards Heffernan 90- Red Cards None Goals None

Perth Glory Tando VELAPHI (GK), 3. Jamie COYNE, 4. Andy TODD, 6. Chris COYNE, 7. Jacob BURNS (C), 8. Victor SIKORA, 10. Wayne SHROJ (28. Tommy AMPHLETT. 79-), 11. Branko JELIC, 16. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 19. Naum SEKULOVSKI, 21. Mile STERJOVSKI (12. Scott NEVILLE 84-).

Unused Subs 20. Aleks VRTESKI (GK), 17. Todd HOWARTH.

Yellow Cards Burns 30-, Sterjovski 68- Red Cards None Goals None

Referee Gerard PARSONS Crowd 7,857