Mariners in Seventh Heaven

The Central Coast Mariners have begun their Hyundai A-League 2010/11 Pre-season campaign in style, with a 7-1 win over New South Wales State League side Central Coast Lightning, to retain the Central Coast Challenge Cup.

The Central Coast Mariners have begun their Hyundai A-League 2010/11 Pre-season campaign in style, with a 7-1 win over New South Wales State League side Central Coast Lightning, to retain the Central Coast Challenge Cup.

After enduring six gruelling weeks of pre-season training, the Mariners were eager to play the first game of the new season in the much-anticipated annual Central Coast Challenge. It is the beginning of a new era for the Central Coast side and the players were keen to impress new assistant coach Phil Moss, who is deputising for new Head Coach Graham Arnold, away on Qantas Socceroo duty.

A fast, albeit damp Pluim Park surface greeted both teams as they took the pitch for kick-off, and the traditional fog also made an appearance, obscuring parts of the ground to the 1105 diehards who braved the chilly weather. Clearly winter had arrived at the spiritual home of Central Coast football.

Despite the wintry conditions the Mariners made their attacking intentions clear in just the second minute of the match when an Adam Kwasnik shot just sailed wide of the near post. The Mariners, it appeared, were in a menacing mood, and two minutes later Marc Warren and Josh Rose combined in a lovely one-two movement that should have been rewarded with the opening goal.

After an exciting opening five minutes both sides looked to gain ascendency in a traditional midfield battle as they settled into the rhythm of the match. Mustafa Amini - rated as one of the most promising young players in Australia - showed maturity beyond his years as he distributed both long and short passes causing havoc for the Lightning defence.

The match came alive in the 13th minute when new recruit Josh Rose, in his Mariners debut, fired home the opening goal from the edge of the penalty area after some strong lead-up play from Warren.

Another newcomer in the Yellow and Navy almost doubled the lead two minutes later, but unfortunately for Rostyn Griffiths he was unable to get the required accuracy on his header and the chance to extend the lead went begging. It was left to the experienced Matt Simon to net the Mariners- second goal in the 22nd minute.

Not to be outdone, his partner in crime up-front, Daniel McBreen, netted a third on the half hour mark. In a way it was a redemptive moment for McBreen, whose finish was the polished product expected of an experienced marksman after missing out on an easier opportunity moments earlier.

Shortly before half-time, the Lightning, in their first real attacking chance of the match, gave their fans something to cheer about. Graham Toope with subtle acceleration was able to evade his marker and drive home a shot past custodian Mathew Ryan.

A mass of changes during the break saw the Mariners begin the second half with a different formation as some senior players got a well-earned break. It didn-t harm the attacking mindset though, as Adam Kwasnik netted a fourth goal two minutes after the restart. The Mariners continued to press forward in the second half as the match developed the tempo of a training run. The Lightning tried hard but were unable to break down a committed Mariners defence.

A free kick awarded just outside the box in the 64th minute saw Brad Porter step up. Porter drilled his free kick, sending his shot swerving FIFA World Cup ball, Jabulani style, into the net.

Two late goals from Sam Gallagher and Matthew Lewis took the Mariners tally for the evening to seven, and ensured a positive start for the team as they build towards the next Hyundai A-League season.

"I thought our finishes were excellent tonight. Given that it was our first game and the stage of pre-season we are in I thought we looked very sharp in front of goal," said Mariners Assistant Coach Phil Moss.

"We-re not going to get ahead of ourselves with the performance, there was certainly some rustiness there and it was good to get that first game out of the way."

The Mariners face a short turnaround before their next Pre-Season Trial, in the Doug Turnbull Cup against Bankstown City Lions on Tuesday at Jensen Park.

"We will probably mix things up ahead of the next game next Tuesday night, there were some players who put up their hand for a start.

"We want the players to go into the season understanding a few different systems of play," Moss said.

In the curtain raiser to the main game, Players made up from FMS Central Coast Premier League teams in the North of the region combined to defeat a combined Southern side 3-1, in a seesawing affair that produced plenty of highlights.

Selectors will now choose a squad from those two teams to represent a Central Coast Premier League select XI and take on the Mariners on Wednesday, 14 July at Pluim Park.

Central Coast Mariners 7 (Rose 13-, Simon 22-, McBreen 30-, Kwasnik 47-, Porter 64-, Gallagher 75-, Lewis 84-) Central Coast Lightning 1 (Toope 44-)

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK), 2. Daniel MCBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 15. Marc WARREN, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt Simon, 22. Mustafa AMINI, 23. Adam KWASNIK.

Substitutes: 5. Brad PORTER, 12. Matthew LEWIS, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 17. Chris DOIG, 21. Sam GALLAGHER.

Central Coast Lightning: 1. Josh BARRETT (GK), 3. Jamie LOBB (c), 5. Nathan MOSELEY, 7. Keenan CRUM, 8. Dale HALL, 10. Nathan BYRN, 11. Neil WOODCOCK, 12. Graham TOOPE, 13. Scott MCGINLEY, 14. Pat DALTON, 15. Ben GLACHAN.

Substitutes: 36. Jake PURCHES (GK), 2. Paul MCGLINEY, 4. Darren COOPER, 6. Matt MITCHELL, 9. Tim KNIGHT, 18. Daniel BIRD, 33. Dane CHAMBERS.

Referee: Ryan SHEPHEARD

Mariners Memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season are available online now by clicking here or by phoning 1300 767 442.