Mariners make it a sweet 13 – but spilt points with Jets

Patrick Zwaanswijk’s fifth goal of the campaign was...

Patrick Zwaanswijk-s fifth goal of the campaign was the important equaliser that allowed the Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets to share the points in the 26th edition of the F3 derby on Saturday after an entertaining 1-all draw. The Dutchman-s header extends the Mariners unbeaten streak to 13 matches, a new club record, but more importantly continues the Mariners impressive display of form in 2012.

Newcastle-s away form has been dissected at length this campaign, but form means absolutely nothing when it comes to the F3 Derby. The battle for NSW regional supremacy brings out the best in both clubs, and it was the visitors who started the match stronger. Marko Jesic fired off a warning shot in just the 9th minute, and Mariner-s custodian Mathew Ryan had to be at full stretch to thwart another promising raid just two minutes later.

At the pointy end of the Yellow and Navy attack, Bernie Ibini and Troy Hearfield were busy early, but were unable to convert some intelligent runs into any real opportunities. Ibini showed enough toe to frustrate Tiago Calvano, and the defender responded with a physical challenge that winded the young flyer.

They say imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, and the Jets- opening goal was the perfect counter-attack, turning what has been one of the Mariner-s great strengths of this campaign back on them. Pushing forward Brad Porter was attempting to link up with Kiwi flyer Michael McGlinchey on the half-way line but unfortunately for the right back, the Jets- quickly realised his intentions, cutting off the delivery and counter-attacking with sheer speed that left the home side stranded at the back. Labinot Haliti showed a touch of class to expertly finish giving the visitors a one goal advantage.

Just eight minutes later the Mariners had the chance to pull back on level terms when referee Matt Gillett awarded the home side a penalty after a decent delivery from McGlinchey forced the Jet-s defence to back-peddle into the area. Hearfield had won a free-kick for the hosts in excellent field position after his speed had turned Calvano inside out. The end result was that the defender cynically tackled the striker earning the distinction of receiving the first yellow card of the 26th F3 derby.

Troy Hearfield stepped up to take the shot, but unfortunately for the talented marksman Newcastle ‘keeper Ben Kennedy was able to dive to his left and deny the penalty with a strong save. To his credit the striker didn-t let the disappointment get to him, and he continued to push forward into strong positions frustrating the Newcastle defence.

The Jets were playing a high-tempo game, and in a battle of wits Arnold decided to try a formation change in an effort to run the Newcastle midfield ragged. His decision to play four-three-three was countered by Newcastle dropping back a defender, but the decision was vindicated as the Mariners- wide players began to get more touches of the ball.

In fact the Mariners best chance to get back on equal terms came from the player on the extreme left of the midfield. Oliver Bozanic pressed forward in the 41st minute and whipped in a perfectly timed cross that just beat his support players who were desperately trying to get into the box.

As the rain closed in during the halftime break there was a sense that the match still had plenty of twists and turns to go. Derbies after-all are an emotional rollercoaster, and the battle-hardened Mariners looked fit and fresh against a tiring Newcastle side.

Youngster Taylor Regan fired off a snap-shot from distance shortly after the resumption of play, but Mat Ryan watched it safely into his hands and defused the situation. The match continued with the intensity supporters have come to expect from these clashes - but neither side could take advantage of field position to trouble either ‘keeper.

Regan showed great desperation to beat a flying Ibini to a perfectly weighted cross from out wide in the 59th minute, putting it safely out for a corner. How ‘keeper Kennedy must have regretted that decision thirty seconds later.

Patrick Zwaanswijk has consistently demonstrated this season that he possesses not only a composed head for defence, but an uncanny ability to lose his marker from corners and head home well weighted deliveries. The popular defender was at it again on the hour mark, beating Kennedy on his near-post with a perfectly timed header after an excellent corner from McGlinchey. It was the Dutchman-s fifth goal of the campaign, and had the added bonus of lifting his teammates in this most fiercest of rivalries.

Newcastle had the chance to regain the lead on 66 minutes from a Byun cross but were unable to capitalise on an uncharacteristic defensive lapse from the home side.

Despite both teams fatiguing as a result of their earlier exertions, both the Mariners and the Jets were looking sharp and composed on the ball. Daniel McBreen, Trent Sainsbury and Adam Kwasnik provided fresh legs, while John Hutchinson was relishing the space in the middle of the park that allowed him to pass to either McGlinchey or Bozanic. The two speeders were determined to get involved as much as possible, and their probing runs was causing havoc for the Newcastle defence.

Like his partner at the heart of the Yellow and Navy defence, skipper Alex Wilkinson possesses an intelligent attacking game. Under the guidance of Arnold, Wilkinson-s game has matured to the point where he now senses an opportunity to inject himself into the attack. In the 81st minute this nearly brought the ultimate reward for his side.

After intercepting a tired pass from the Jets, Wilkinson showed a tremendous turn of speed to race 45 metres downfield before linking up with Kwasnik. If that wasn-t enough, he was the man who thwarted the Jet-s next attacking foray with a well-timed challenge. It was an inspirational run by the captain, and triggered three good opportunities for the home side to steal all three points.

First McGlinchey went on a probing run that beat three defenders and delivered a well-weighted cross into the box. Unfortunately for the Kiwi flyer his teammates weren-t able to get there in time to give him an option.

McBreen then had the best chance to steal a win in the 87th minute, but his shot was blocked by some committed defence. His strike partner in Kwasnik had two late half-chances in stoppage time, but was unable to get past a resolute Newcastle defensive structure.

In the end the 26th edition of the derby ended with the players absolutely spent, and a draw was a fair result.

For the Mariners attention now can turn to Wednesday-s away clash with the Melbourne Heart, a short-turn-around but a challenge that the squad enjoys.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Zwaanswijk 60-) Newcastle Jets 1 (Haliti 17-)

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK), 3. Joshua ROSE, 5. Brad PORTER (16. Trent SAINSBURY 56-), 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Bernie IBINI (23. Adam KWASNIK 66-), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 12. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 22. Mustafa AMINI (2. Daniel McBREEN 56-)

Subs not Used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (GK)

Yellow Cards: Hutchinson 45-

Red Cards: None

Newcastle Jets: 1. Ben KENNEDY (GK), 2. Taylor REGAN, 4. Nikolai TOPPER STANLEY, 5. Tiago CALVANO (13. Sung-Hwan BYUN 63-), 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 8. Jeremy BROCKIE, 10. Ruben ZADKOVICH, 14. Labinot HALITI (Ali ABBAS 78-), 18. Marko JESIC (9. Michael BRIDGES 65-), 23. Ryan GRIFFITHS (C), 25. Jacob PEPPER

Subs not Used: 19. Matthew NASH (GK)

Yellow Cards: Calvano 22-, Kantarovski 71-

Red Cards: None

Referee: Matt GILLETT

Crowd: 10, 904 at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford