Mariners miss shot at victory in beachside derby

The Central Coast Mariners slim playoff hopes remain alive following a spirited 1-all draw with top-of-the-table Gold Coast United at Bluetongue Stadium, but while they continued their unbeaten start to 2010, they could be forgiven for thinking that they could have taken all three points.

The Central Coast Mariners slim playoff hopes remain alive following a spirited 1-all draw with top-of-the-table Gold Coast United at Bluetongue Stadium, but while they continued their unbeaten start to 2010, they could be forgiven for thinking that they could have taken all three points.

After Joel Porter put the visitors ahead on 66 minutes, Nik Mrdja reacted almost immediately from the penalty spot, and while the Mariners dominated much of the remaining 20 minutes, they were unable to secure more than a point for their efforts.

"They-re a good team and are on top of the league for a reason, but we should have beaten them," said Mariners- Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.

"We started to want the ball and we created a few good chances, the ‘keeper made a few good saves, but it was a bad goal to concede.

"We went straight up the park and scored a goal, showed a bit of ticker and then went on.

"McGlinchey could have scored three, Porter, Mrdja, the list goes on, but it-s another two points missed."

With three points vital to keep the Mariners- hopes alive, Lawrie McKinna-s men started brightly enough with Andrew Clark dispossessing Michael Thwaite in the left channel and setting up Adam Kwasnik, who sent his right footed effort wide from 20 yards.

Jason Culina opened up from long range but sent his 30 yard effort directly toward Danny Vukovic, but Jess Vanstratten had significantly more to do, when Brad Porter beat his man to fire a wicked cross in, the Terrigal junior, now Gold Coast custodian bravely diving at the feet of Matt Simon to smother the danger.

Kristian Rees headed a Culina free-kick wide and Zenon Caravella fired an effort toward Vukovic after picking up a Joel Porter pass but in truth, chances in the opening 45 minutes were few and far between.

Pedj Bojic was off target after good lead up work by Clark and Kwasnik forced Rees to head behind for a corner on 27 minutes, but the home side-s greatest chance of the first stanza would arrive five minutes later.

Kwasnik latched on to a long cross to go on a run into the area and toward the byline, before forcing Vanstratten into a fine save at the near post.

The final chance of the half saw Thwaite well off target after Porter played a lovely through ball, giving both McKinna and Bleiberg plenty to talk over with their troops at the break.

It was a similarly sluggish start to the second half, taking almost fifteen minutes for the first real chance, as Matt Simon showed good strength only for Van Den Brink to produce a superb last-man challenge however Simon was fouled as he was coming out of the initial scrap by Rees, allowing Mrdja to step up from the edge of the area.

While his free-kick cannoned into the wall, the Mariners had seemingly found a spark, as a Clark cross was headed behind for a corner soon after.

Frustratingly though, it was at the other end where the deadlock was finally broken, when, on 66 minutes, Boogaard headed a corner clear but only as far as Rees, whose header back across goal was met by Joel Porter, and following a mad scramble which saw his original effort cleared off the line by John Hutchinson, he managed to tap the scraps home.

Less than 60 second later the Mariners were given the chance to restore parity when Van Den Brink brought down Mrdja in the box, and he stepped up to the spot to sweetly drill his penalty straight down the middle, and notch his third goal in as many weeks.

The match had well and truly sparked into life, and tensions boiled over when Hutchinson slid in to dispossess Zenon Caravella, and the Gold Coast players took exception to the challenge.

After a set-to lasting several moments and involving a large chunk of the players on the pitch, Hutchinson went into Mr Beath-s book, as did Michael Thwaite for his over zealous reactions, and the FFA is sure to take a closer look at the incident.

"Hutch has won the ball, that-s what you-re out there to do, and he-s been grabbed by the throat and thrown about like a rag doll. Hutch has been harshly dealt with there," McKinna said.

Once things settled down traffic became largely one-way, as the Mariners piled on the pressure.

Michael McGlinchey-s very first touch nearly provided a winner, when his sweetly timed effort whistled millimetres past the far post following good lead up work from Hutchinson and Simon.

Brad Porter fired a shot across the face and agonizingly out of reach of a lurking Matt Simon on 77 minutes, while Vanstratten made himself big to rush out and smother when McGlinchey found himself one-on-one.

The visitors chances in the final 15 minutes was limited to a long range effort from Culina which failed to trouble Vukovic, but conversely, Vanstratten had to be at his acrobatic best to deny McGlinchey, again, with one hand, to complete a frustrating night for the Yellow and Navy, which very nearly could have ended so much more positively for the home side.

"We-ve still got three games to go, and we can still win three games. The draw wasn-t the preferred result but it was still another point.

"There are three games to go, we play Perth, Newcastle and Wellington, so there are nine points up for grabs, so we-ll be going out to get nine points," McKinna said.

"At this time of the season we can-t afford draws anymore. Taking away the second half which was positive and where there was some good football played, it-s still a draw and doesn-t do much for us on the table," said Mariners- captain Alex Wilkinson.

"Disappointing in that regard but a positive in the fact that the second half was a decent performance, and if we can continue playing like that in the next three games then we-ll give ourselves a shot."

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Nik MRDJA, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. Matt SIMON (11. Dylan MACALLISTER 86-), 23. Adam KWASNIK (14. Michael McGLINCHEY. 73-).

Unused Subs 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 2. Matthew CROWELL.

Yellow Cards Clark 20-, Hutchinson 68-, Boogaard 69-, 90+2-, Kwasnik 72- Red Cards Boogaard 90+2- Goals Mrdja 68-(pen)

Gold Coast United 1. Jess VANSTRATTEN (GK), 2. Steve PANTELIDIS, 3. Michael THWAITE, 7. Zenon CARAVELLA, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Jason CULINA (C), 13. Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14. Joel PORTER (15. Tahj MINNIECON 81-), 16. Kristian REES, 24. ANDERSON (34. Charlie MILLER 56-), 36. Dino DJULBIC.

Unused Subs 20. Scott HIGGINS (GK), 17. Matt OSMAN.

Yellow Cards Thwaite 68-, Caravella 83- Red Cards None Goals Porter 66-

Referee Chris BEATH Crowd 5,724