Mariners turn over new leaf in Championship bid
The Central Coast Mariners will begin their quest for the only Hyundai A-League trophy that has eluded them since their inception when hosting the Queensland Roar in the Minor Semi Final – 1st Leg at Bluetongue Stadium tomorrow (Friday, 6 February).
The Central Coast Mariners will begin their quest for the only Hyundai A-League trophy that has eluded them since their inception when hosting the Queensland Roar in the Minor Semi Final - 1st Leg at Bluetongue Stadium tomorrow (Friday, 6 February).
With the Premiers Plate and Pre-Season Cup already in the yellow and navy-s trophy cabinet, only the iconic Hyundai A-League Championship trophy is missing from the Mariners- collection.
Despite concluding their fourth regular season with three straight defeats against each of their Finals Series rivals, the Mariners are now relishing an opportunity to start afresh and make a play for the most celebrated prize in Australian football.
Andrew Clark and Matthew Osman return from suspension and injury respectively to boost the Mariners- chances against an in-form Roar side, while Qantas Socceroo Dean Heffernan will sit out Friday-s 1st Leg through suspension before becoming available the following week.
The equal most Finals Series experienced club in this year-s post-season, the Mariners go into Friday-s match just 270 minutes away from qualifying for a record third Hyundai A-League Grand Final appearance with the confidence that they have the ability to do so.
"We-re looking forward to it, it-s a new competition for us and a new phase of our season and it-s a big week for us," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.
"It-s totally different now, it doesn-t matter what our form has been like - going into this first game we need to get a result at home and Friday-s result will determine how we play when we go to Queensland.
"Queensland are probably one of the form teams, they-ve had a great run, Van Dijk is scoring goals for them, they-re scoring goals from midfield, we just need to shut that down and concentrate on what we do well."
The Mariners- clash with the Roar will be the club-s eighth in a Finals Series - making the Mariners the second most experienced Hyundai A-League club in the post-season behind northern rivals the Newcastle Jets, who have appeared in nine Finals Series fixtures.
The Mariners have not lost any Finals Series match that they have scored a goal in, but have lost on every occasion that they have failed to find the back of the net - including their Grand Final appearances of 2006 and 2008.
Three members of the Mariners- current playing group have netted for the Mariners in a Finals Series match previously; Heffernan, Osman and Sasho Petrovski, whose brace against the Jets last season secured the yellow and navy their second appearance at the showpiece event of the Hyundai A-League season.
In order to stake a claim for the Hyundai A-League Championship, the Mariners must overcome one of the anomalies of their four-year Hyundai A-League history on Friday night.
Friday-s meeting between the Mariners and the Roar at Bluetongue Stadium marks the eighteenth match up between the two sides in all competitions, and not since their 2005 Pre-Season Cup triumph have the yellow and navy defeated their Brisbane-based rivals at their idyllic waterfront home.
The Mariners and the Roar share one of the more peculiar head to head records in the Hyundai A-League, with draws dominating past results between the two clubs - a consequence of an amazing six straight stalemates between October 2005 and October 2006.
In total, the Mariners have claimed four victories against the Roar, have suffered five losses and have played out eight draws.
"The Roar will be tough, they-ve got a settled team and they-ve had a very settled squad," said McKinna.
"They-ve got a lot of youth up there and players that play with no fear and they come at you in droves, they-ve got a lot of pace - we just need to match that and concentrate on keeping the ball.
"We just need to improve our concentration, when you-re playing against top teams like Queensland, you can-t let your guard down for a minute and if we-re switched on for ninety minutes, we-ll get a positive result."
Central Coast Mariners vs. Queensland Roar
Bluetongue Stadium - Friday, 6 February 2009, Kick off 8pm
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The Mariners- third Finals Series campaign will begin with a blockbuster clash against the Queensland Roar in the Minor Semi Final - 1st Leg at Bluetongue Stadium on Friday, 6 February. Kick off is at 8pm.
Tickets for this match are available from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.