Central Coast Mariners 2 (O’Donovan 86’ & Ascroft 91’) Sydney FC 2 (Blackwood 11’ & Smeltz 45’)
The Run Down
The Central Coast Mariners have shown incredible character to pull back a two-goal deficit against Sydney FC with less than five minutes remaining to record a 2-2 draw thanks to an incredible volley by Roy O’Donovan and stoppage time strike by Harry Ascroft.
Ascroft emerged as the hero at Gosford’s idyllic bayside arena, not just for his equalising goal but also for a superhero-like goal line save in the 50th minute to keep the Yellow & Navy in the contest.
The Mariners thought they had levelled the wagers in the 43rd minute with some fantastic build up play by Josh Rose. Roy O’Donovan found the back of the net who was only denied by the offside flag.
A result fills the Mariners’ dressing room with a dose of confidence for Tony Walmsley’s young squad heading into the final three matches of the Hyundai A-League season.
There was almost more late drama to be added by the last kick of the game from 18-year-old International Football School Student Trent Buhagiar who fired a volley on the edge of the box. His shot was on target and blocked by a Sydney FC defender.
Walmsley credited the impact of his substitutions who added a new lease on life in the second half in Matt Fletcher who provided a precise assist for O’Donovan’s goal along with the liveliness of Francesco Stella & Buhagiar.
Full focus turns to next Sunday that will see the Central Coast Mariners venture to Coopers Stadium for a battle against the in form Adelaide United. Luis Garcia & Mitch Austin will both be back up for selection after serving one week suspensions.
11’ BLACKWOOD GOAL: Blackwood opened his Hyundai A-League account at Central Coast Stadium to put Sydney FC a goal up. His impressive strike from outside the 18-yard-box nestled into Izzo’s bottom corner thanks to an unfortunate deflection
45’ SMELTZ GOAL: Brandon O’Neill played a precision ball to Smeltz and the Kiwi International made no mistake with the finish to double the lead just before the break.
86’ O’DONOVAN GOAL: Started by Josh Rose, an attack was lodged by the Central Coast Mariners in the dying stages. The left winger played the ball to Matt Fletcher and the substitute’s delivery was right on the mark which allowed O’Donovan to volley home in sensational fashion.
90 + 1’ ASCROFT GOAL: As the first goal went in, the noise from the stands heightened and the Yellow & Navy were on a mission to jag a result. Enter Harry Ascroft. The centre back picked up possession from Liam Rose and pulled the trigger from distance, his shot was too much to handle for Janjetovic and levelled the scores 2-2 with just minutes remaining.
“I think quality subs mate the difference tonight, we know we’re capable of scoring goals with this squad,” Walmsley said. “We started this season so brightly with lots of front third entries and today was a day where after last week we really needed to throw everything at Sydney and it didn’t really happen for us in the first half.
“We had one disallowed and on reflection the referees will probably say it should have stood and then at 2-0 after the run we’ve had you wonder where is it going to come from?
“You look at Harry Ascroft and compare his first half to his second half, once the belief was there and he was stepping in and taking control of the back four we got momentum.
“I’m really pleased for the fans who were here, who made great noise and brought us home and for the players who have never given up. The mood is incredibly positive, they don’t train like a team at the bottom of the league and today showed that there’s always something to play for so I’m very proud of them.
“It’s definitely a morale booster, to come from 2-0 down against Sydney FC after the run we’ve had is a testament to endeavour, persistence and belief.
“Great finish by Roy O’Donovan, great delivery by Matt Fletcher who is now showing all the signs of the player we know he is.
“I’m thrilled for Roy, he scored a couple of days after his first baby was born and it’s a good day today.
Central Coast Mariners: Izzo (gk), Poscoliero, McGing, Ascroft, Neill, Ferreira (Buhagiar 83’), Montgomery (c) (Stella 46’), L. Rose, J. Rose, Bingham (Fletcher 81’), O’Donovan
Sydney FC: Janjetovicz (gk), Ryall (c), Anderson, Faty, Grant, Holosko (Stambolziev 90+2’), Tavares (Dimitrijevic 74’), O’Neill, Carney, Blackwood (Simon 62’), Smeltz
Scorers: Blackwood 11’, Smeltz 45+1’, O’Donovan 86’, Ascroft 90+1’
Yellow cards: J. Rose 33’, L. Rose 62’, Carney 64’
Conditions: 21C, Fine
Attendance: 6383 @ Central Coast Stadium