Central Coast Mariners mentor Phil Moss says his squad is growing in confidence as Hyundai A-League season ten and the Club’s opening round fixture against arch rivals Newcastle Jets edges nearer.
The Mariners hadn’t met a Hyundai A-League rival this pre-season until last Sunday (September 7) when the yellow and navy drew 1-1 with the cashed up, big spending Melbourne City in Lismore.
Central Coast played that game under fatigue having endured a physically demanding weeklong camp in northern New South Wales, however tapered their preparation for Friday’s friendly against reigning Hyundai A-League Champions Brisbane Roar at Queensland’s Ballymore Stadium.
The lighter training load that the Mariners players experienced before the test against Roar enable Moss’s men to put in a polished – and in periods dominant – display against Mike Mulvey’s charges, with the game, like against City, ending 1-1.
“Our performance against Brisbane has given the players a lot of confidence,” Moss explained on Sunday. “We kept the defending Hyundai A-League Champions to very few clear-cut opportunities throughout the 90 minutes, so certainly that has gone a long way to instilling our players with the belief that we can compete with the very best teams in the competition.”
“Roar set the benchmark last season, and from what we’ve seen and heard of them so far this pre-season they’ll be one of the teams to beat again. They’ve played seven games and met a number of Hyundai A-League opponents already, so I was delighted that we created ample opportunities to win the game and showed good concentration, discipline and structure in defence.”
"Brisbane are a quality side and I have a lot of respect for what Mike - and his new assistant Ron Smith - is doing with their squad, but I'm happy with how we ran out the game physically & tactically. They equalised late through a sloppy goal on our behalf but those things will be rectified before the season starts.”
"We set high standards and the performances against Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar show we are building in the right direction at this stage of our preparations."
While Moss was satisfied with the style and substance his side showed against Brisbane in the sunshine state, he also departed Ballymore pleased with the performances of individuals within his ranks.
Indeed, Moss singled out the efforts of young left back Michael Neill for applause, with the 20-year-old having put in an accomplished shift in one of his first appearances in the senior team.
Injury ruled Neill out of contention for first team selection for much of last campaign, though the former Sutherland Sharks utility is now looking as if he’ll earn the chance to see time in Australia’s top flight throughout season 2014/15.
“I was very impressed with Michael Neill on Friday,” Moss said. “He showed great work rate and wasn’t overawed by playing against illustrious opposition, so for me that was a real positive.”
“Matt Sim and Isaka Cernak were also busy, and the central defensive duo of Eddy Bosnar and Zac Anderson continue to show good signs.”
“Richárd Vernes will be better for the minutes he saw in the second half, and while Kim Seung-yong came off in the first 45 with a knock, we simply didn’t want to take any chances with him and are pleased that his injury is not at all serious.”
The Mariners will return to Queensland on Tuesday to take on NPL outfit Olympic FC in the Round of 16 of the Westfield FFA Cup, and Moss says his team are determined to advance to the last eight of the freshly founded, yet already widely loved, cut-throat competition.
“We are absolutely determined to go back to Queensland and get the result,” Moss said. “We are taking the Westfield FFA Cup very seriously – it’s a fantastic competition that has captured the imagination of football fans across the country.”
“We’ve done plenty of video analysis on Olympic FC and are giving them all the respect that they deserve.”
“But nothing less than a win will be acceptable in my eyes.”