Mariners youth aim to kick clear of chasing pack

After 7 rounds of the National Youth League the Central Coast Mariners sit comfortably in second place with three wins, and three draws from their opening 6 matches.

After 7 rounds of the National Youth League the Central Coast Mariners sit comfortably in second place with three wins, and three draws from their opening 6 matches.

One of those draws came in their opening round fixture against Adelaide United, where they snatched a late 1-all draw at Hindmarsh Stadium.

It-s the same opposition in store for Tony Walmsley-s side this Sunday and the Mariners know it-s a golden opportunity to kick clear of the chasing pack, where victory would give them a five point buffer over the third placed Reds.

Last Friday-s 6-nil thrashing of Newcastle Jets represented a night where significant statistics in the history of the club were set, including the largest competitive victory in two seasons of the National Youth League.

It was also the second clean sheet in the team-s history. The previous one being against Queensland Roar (now Brisbane Roar) on Saturday, 6 December 2008 at Bluetongue Stadium, in the form of a 1-nil victory to the home side.

Skipper Panni Nikas was full of praise for his side-s efforts in the drubbing.

"I thought we started off well and we continued that momentum as the game progressed. As a team we battled well and knocked the ball around a fair bit, which was pleasing to see.

"The first graders who dropped down helped us in the game. Overall it was a great hit-out for the squad.

"We were very happy with the result but the most important thing was that it was our first clean sheet for the season. That-s something we-ve been working towards and has been stressed in our team talks so that was pleasing.

"There was good football played and everyone had a high work rate on and off the ball," said Nikas.

Nikas was on state league grand final duty with Sutherland Sharks when the Mariners opened their NYL campaign for season two in Adelaide, and admits he-s unsure what to expect from Joe Mullen-s side.

"I haven-t played Adelaide United yet this season as I was unavailable due to the premier league grand final. The feedback I got from the boys was that they-re a very quick side across the park. What we need is to stick to our game plan. It should be a good match," Nikas said.

The side had to fight for last minute draws in their opening two matches against Adelaide and the Gold Coast respectively, before hitting their straps in a 3-1 victory over competition heavyweight Sydney FC.

Nikas believes the form the side is beginning to discover is indicative of the time they are spending together.

"The squad is starting to settle down and we-re all starting to gel as a team. Now we-ve had a couple of trips away we-re starting to get to know each other better.

"I think we-re starting to look more like a professional team and a professional unit, which will help us into the future.

"The standard of the youth league is pretty high. It-s on par with that of the premier league. Most sides are dropping down first-graders and they add plenty of extra intensity to games.

"It gives you something to aim at as you can see what you need to aspire to, to get to that first team level. It-s a good competition to be a part of," said Nikas.

Sunday-s clash with Adelaide United will be the 5th competitive clash between the two clubs and the first on neutral territory.

Previous Meetings

Friday 3rd October 2008 - Adelaide United 3 Central Coast Mariners 0, Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide Saturday 15th November 2008 - Central Coast Mariners 1 Adelaide United 6, Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford Sunday 25th January 2009 - Central Coast Mariners 0 Adelaide United 2, Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford Friday 11th September 2009 - Adelaide United 1 Central Coast 1, Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide

Central Coast Mariners squad: Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), Matthew RYAN (gk), Ahmad ELRICH (OA), David D'APUZZO, Matthew LEWIS, David GULLO, Brendan GRIFFIN, Brady SMITH, Panni NIKAS (c), Nathan SHERLOCK, Manny GIANNAROS, Luka DUKIC, Jerry KALOURIS, Mitchell MALLIA, Adam ORMSBY, Gavin FORBES, Nick FITZGERALD, Matthew LIDDALL.? *three to be omitted*??

Unavailable: Graz TRIMBOLI (ankle - 1 week)

Adelaide United squad: Joel ALLWRIGHT, Andrew CIARLA, Michael DOYLE, Kingsley FRANCIS, Evan KOSTOPOULOS, Codey LARKIN (gk), Dane MILOVANOVIC, Perry MITRIS, Matthew MULLEN, Nick MUNRO (gk), Brett RAYNER, Alex SUNASKY, Liam WOODING, Joe WRIGHT *one to be included*

Unavailable: Nathan FARRELL (ankle - 1 week)

Referee: Gary Vandeburgt

The Central Coast Mariners National Youth League team is in action this Sunday, 1 November, when they take on Adelaide United at McKellar Park, Canberra. Kick-off is at 11:00am.

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