Mariners Youth put ghosts, and the Jets to bed

The Central Coast Mariners have broken a Pluim Park hoodoo, but more importantly, have put themselves in a position of needing only a draw against Sydney FC in the final round, to secure a famous National Youth League premiership, following a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Newcastle Jets.

The Central Coast Mariners have broken a Pluim Park hoodoo, but more importantly, have put themselves in a position of needing only a draw against Sydney FC in the final round, to secure a famous National Youth League premiership, following a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Newcastle Jets.

Goals from Matt Crowell, Nick Fitzgerald and Bernie Ibeni-Isei secured a maiden win in five starts at the home of Central Coast Football, as they cancelled out the efforts of Fabian Iacovelli and Damian Brosque.

Mariners Head Coach Tony Walmsley was enthused with the fact his team had secured the points required to make certain of their spot in the finals, and indeed, secure a top two finish and a home playoff.

"I-m very proud of the boys we played well today and achieved our goal from the start of the season which was to make the finals.

"It was a performance of great character from the boys and we played really well today, but still conceded some goals that we would have preferred not to," Walmsley said.

The visitors were eager to continue their good form at Pluim Park, and they had the first real scoring chances of the match. The match was barely two minutes old when William Angel launched a snapshot at goal that forced Mat Ryan into a fine save.

Ryan barely had time to catch his breath, forced to dive on a shot from James Virgili in the 6th minute.

These two early chances spurned the Mariners into action as their midfield began to take control of the match. The Coast side didn-t have to wait long for their attacking raids to pay dividends.

Matthew Lewis was able to evade his marker down the left flank and his pinpoint pass was enough to give Panny Nikas the split second he needed to further the movement. This Nikas duly did finding Adam Kwasnik who promptly reversed the play back to Nikas. Kwasnik played his part well continuing his run and the Jets defenders set their sights on the Hyundai A-League squad member in the belief that he was still in possession. Nikas found Matthew Crowell, the Welshman taking a split second to size up the situation before driving the ball home from the edge of the box with textbook accuracy.

As is often the case when a team has a sluggish start to a match but still nets an early goal the game all of a sudden appears to open up. This was certainly the case this afternoon when the Mariners absolutely dominated the next half hour, creating many strong chances in the process.

The Mariners almost doubled their lead in the 18th minute when a perfectly weighted corner found an unmarked Shane Huke whose attempted volley went just wide of the near post.

Matthew Lewis, arguably the most energetic player on the park in the first half was finding space at will on the left flank and he provided an excellent cross to Adam Kwasnik. Kwasnik-s first time volley just missed the target.

The next chance fell to the captain on the half-hour who hit a dipping drive from thirty yards, unfortunately for Nikas the ball curled away at the last moment. Brad Porter had a chance shortly after but his efforts were thwarted by some desperate Newcastle defence. The Mariners had another chance moments later when a floating Matt Crowell corner found Kwasnik unmarked on the back post. His efforts to steer the ball inside proved to be in vain and another chance went begging for the home side.

Brady Smith, who had been well contained by the Newcastle defence decided to try his luck from distance but his shot was easily dealt with by the Newcastle custodian, Dion Shaw. Kwasnik spurred on by the effort of Smith tried his own thunderbolt a minute later, but like his teammate was unable to get the required trajectory on the shot to trouble Shaw.

So often this season the Achilles- heel for the Mariners has been the loss of concentration at critical times, and again this proved to be the case. By rights the Mariners should have had a two or three goal buffer at the break given the amount of chances they created in the half, but instead Newcastle were able to draw level.

A poor clearance by Matthew Crowell travelled only as far as Jet-s striker Fabian Iacovelli. The Jet-s marksman is a player who doesn-t need to be asked twice to take advantage of any opportunity and he was able to cut inside his marker and drive home a shot to restore the confidence in the Newcastle camp.

The Jets began the second half where they left off, hitting the lead with a well-worked goal in the 49th minute. Damian Brosque was given too much time on the ball and was able to drive home his shot with plenty of venom.

Instead of being in front the Mariners suddenly found themselves chasing the game and their play lifted accordingly.

Crowell again tried his luck from distance, but once more Shaw was up to the task. It appeared luck wasn-t on the Mariners side when William Angel was able to miraculously clear a ball off his line that appeared certain to be goal bound. Brady Smith from who the shot came from could only shake his head in amazement and applaud what was a good piece of football all round.

The Mariners kept pressing forward for the elusive goal and Panny Nikas thought he had nabbed it in the 63rd minute with a well-timed header. For the third time in the match scrambling defence saved the day for Newcastle.

Throughout the season the Mariners have relied on fluent passing movements as a key to unlocking even the most sturdy of opposition defence. In the 67th minute they demonstrated just why it is such a potent offensive weapon. Matt Lewis and Adam Kwasnik combined for a lovely one-two combination that left the Newcastle defenders flat footed. Lewis followed through with a strong shot that looked destined for the goal. Shaw had other others and desperately stuck his leg out. It was enough to deny the goal.

Ultimately it was the substitutes who would swing momentum back to the Mariners.

The equaliser would come though and it was Nick Fitzgerald who would do the honors, netting his third goal of the campaign in the process. Fitzgerald was able to cut inside his marker and drag the ball past a hapless Shaw.

Not satisfied with a point, the Mariners attacked with flair and purpose to regain the lead.

Five minutes later that chance finally arrived.

A Newcastle clearance went only as far as Fitzgerald who with a subtle touch was able to control the ball and lay it off for Bernie Ibini-Isei. Full of confidence after getting the chance to play in the Hyundai A-League, Ibini-Isei was keen to make this moment count, by driving the ball into the back of the net for his third goal of the campaign.

It was a lead that the Mariners would never relinquish. The last fifteen minutes did send some scares through the camp, when they had to defend several free kicks from dangerous positions. Matt Liddall pulled off a strong tackle to deny one threatening raid, as did Panny Nikas shortly before the final whistle. The Jets- best chance in this period fell to Scott Balderson. Mat Ryan however was equal to the task, frustrating the Jets player.

In the end the Mariners were able to hold on for a win, in an entertaining game of football that saw Tony Walmsley-s men assure themselves a top two finish, and to know that a point against Sydney next week, or even a loss defending on other results, would be enough to celebrate winning the title.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK), 2. Matthew CROWELL, (7.Brendan GRIFFIN 61-) 3. Jerry KALOURIS, 4. Matthew LIDDALL, 6. Brad PORTER, 9. Gavin FORBES (18. Bernie IBINI-ISEI, 46-) 10. Panny NIKAS (C), 11. Adam KWASNIK, 12. Shane HUKE, 14, Brady SMITH (8. Nick FITZGERALD 61-), 17. Matthew LEWIS.

Unused Subs 20. Nik MATIC (GK)

Yellow Cards Huke 80- Red Cards None Goals Crowell 9-, Fitzgerald 69-, Ibini-Isei 76-

Newcastle Jets: 1. Dion SHAW (GK), 2. Jon GRIFFITHS (12. Mario SIMIC 59-), 3. Matthew SIM, 4. Damian BROSQUE, 5, Scott BALDERSON, 6. Taylor REGAN (C), 7. William ANGEL (14. Dylan MURPHY 59-), 8. Jarrad ROSS, 10. Jesse PINTO, (9. Adrian KARAKOLEVSKI 61-), 11. James VIRGILI, 13. Fabian IACOVELLI

Unused Subs 20. Robbie KOLAC (GK)

Yellow Cards Sim 22-, Regan 47-, Simic 66-, Brosqvelliue 91- Red Cards None Goals Iacovelli 44-, Brosque 49-

Referee Kurt AMS

The Central Coast Mariners NYL side will conclude their regular season campaign against Sydney FC on Saturday 6 March at Pluim Park, Lisarow. Kick-off is at 4:00pm