Mariners stutter ahead of Finals Series tilt

The Central Coast Mariners tonight suffered their third straight Hyundai A-League defeat in front of a vocal and colorful attendance of 12,351 at Bluetongue Stadium – 1-0 at the hands of fellow Finals Series qualifiers Adelaide United.

The Central Coast Mariners tonight suffered their third straight Hyundai A-League defeat in front of a vocal and colorful attendance of 12,351 at Bluetongue Stadium - 1-0 at the hands of fellow Finals Series qualifiers Adelaide United.

The Mariners will begin their record third Finals Series campaign in a fortnight on the back of an uncommon third straight defeat that was sealed by the boot of Adelaide-s Brazilian striker Cristiano in the closing stages of the second half.

While the Mariners were second best on the night to an opponent that had the Hyundai A-League Premiership to play for, they will take heart from a sometimes-encouraging performance that will ensure that the yellow and navy approach the Finals Series with the knowledge that they are capable of challenging their in-form counterparts.

"Credit to Adelaide, they had to go for the win and they put us on the back foot and there were no surprises there," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.

"We absorbed a lot of pressure but when we did break and go forward, we had to do better with the ball.

"In the first half and probably more in the second half, we created great chances and opportunities going forward, but gave the ball away and didn-t find the man."

Needing a win by a two-goal margin to claim their second Hyundai A-League Premiership and an AFC Champions League berth, Adelaide were expected to provide the Mariners with a stern test and underlined their attacking intent from the outset.

Danny Vukovic was called upon on repeated occasions to deny the Adelaide strike force, while Paul Agostino-s effort midway through the opening stanza was blocked by the feet of standout defender Paul O-Grady, who was impressive in his third start of the campaign.

O-Grady influence alongside new defensive midfield option Nigel Boogaard was a feature of the Mariners- play throughout, with the yellow and navy most certainly fronting with more defensive steel than in previous weeks.

Not to overstate the Reds- attacking dominance, however, the Mariners were more than equal to their opponents in terms of chances created in both halves and perhaps deserved the match opener.

Striker Matt Simon, chasing the one goal needed to share the Hyundai A-League Golden Boot with the Wellington Phoenix-s Shane Smeltz, was typically menacing throughout and ensured that Adelaide custodian Eugene Galekovic was alert from start to finish.

Nik Mrdja-s introduction at the expense of defender Pedj Bojic at the break only further added to the Mariners- attacking endeavour and it wasn-t until Cristiano-s close range strike eight minutes from full time that the Mariners looked the less likely to open the scoring.

As Adelaide searched for their season defining strike in the frantic closing stages, the Mariners too came close to netting an equaliser, with substitute Greg Owens coming close with the home side-s final chance of the game in his first appearance of season four.

"We-ve lost the last three against the three teams above us, so hopefully we-ve learnt a wee bit from that, but we have to get better," said McKinna.

"If we-re not any better than what we were tonight, we-ll play two games and we-ll be out, if we get better than that, we can go through to the next round.

"Put simply, we have to improve, we defended well against a team that had to win the game, but when we-ve got the ball, we have to do better with it."

Having completed the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 regular season in fourth place, the Mariners will now take on the Queensland Roar in a two-legged Minor Semi Final playoff series that will commence the weekend beginning Friday, 6 February and will conclude on the weekend ending Sunday, 15 February.

The date and kick off time of the Mariners- home leg of the Minor Semi Final playoff series will be confirmed at a later date, stay tuned to for updates and full ticketing information for Mariners Members and supporters.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 2. Andre Gumprecht, 4. Pedj Bojic (9. Nik Mrdja 46-), 5. Bradley Porter, 7. John Hutchinson, 10. Adrian Caceres (12. Greg Owens 63-), 11. Dylan Macallister (28. Matthew Lewis 87-), 13. Paul O-Grady, 16. Nigel Boogaard, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon

Unused Subs 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk)

Yellow Cards Simon 74- Red Cards None Goals None

Adelaide United 20. Eugene Galekovic (gk), 2. Robert Cornthwaite, 5. Michael Valkanis, 7. Lucas Pantelis (25. Robert Younis 79-), 8. Kristian Sarkies, 9. Paul Agostino (10. Cristiano 68-), 13. Travis Dodd, 14. Scott Jamieson, 18. Fabian Barbiero, 24. Paul Reid, 27. Michael Marrone

Unused Subs 15. Jonas Salley, 30. Mark Birighitti (gk)

Yellow Cards Barbiero 26-, Cornthwaite 45-+2 Red Cards None Goals Cristiano 82-

Referee Matthew Breeze Crowd 12,351