Okon: We love playing at Central Coast Stadium

The Central Coast Mariners return to Central Coast Stadium this Sunday full of confidence with three consecutive wins under their belt and Paul Okon says that the fans have played their part this season.

Hosting Kevin Muscat’s Melbourne Victory is no easy task but Okon credited the Mariners’ home fans for their unwavering support this season.

“We’re expecting a big crowd at home,” Okon said. “Our supporters have supported us really well at Central Coast Stadium and we are going to give Victory a game and hopefully after 90 minutes it’s the result we’ve got over the last three weeks.

“We love playing there. To see the amount of yellow jerseys out in force – they’ve lived up to the deal to come out and support us. At the start of the season I promised the supporters that we would deliver a team that the supporters would be proud of, we should have had better results at home but certainly the effort and hunger that we have shown is enough for our supporters to continue to believe in us,” Okon said.  

As expected the morale in the Mariners is at a season high with the training intensity lifting week-by-week. Despite missing Captain Nick Montgomery through suspension Okon says that there are young players ready to step in and do the job.

“The vibe at training this week has been great,” Okon said. “We’ve had three very good performances that have finally delivered us nine points.

“We’re not short on confidence at the moment but Melbourne Victory are one of the top teams in Australia. They’re coming off the back of not such a good performance against Newcastle so for them it’s just as big of a game as it is for us on Sunday.

“This isn’t the first time we're missing Monty this season,” Okon said. “He’s had one or two injuries where he’s missed games and players have come in and done well – Adam Berry is the obvious replacement – there’s no doubt that we will miss Monty’s leadership but it gives guys like Storm, Posco & Roy a chance to really stand up and lead the team on Sunday,” Okon said.

An area of the Mariners’ game that Okon has been keen to stamp out is the key mistakes in crucial moments of the game and the former Lazio defender is proud of the resilience shown by his young back four who have conceded just one goal in three matches – whilst haling Fabio Ferreira in his change from wing to midfield.  

“Defensively we’ve been really solid, we’ve looked like we weren’t really going to concede and we’ve eliminated silly mistakes which has really set us platforms to go on and win games,” Okon said. “Jacques is back but he’s only had a week of full training so he’s a bit underdone and we’ve had some great news about Blake Powell which should see him back next week,” Okon said.

“Fab has been doing a great job, number 10 is a specialised position and it’s not easy for a winger to come in and fit in but things are going smoothly and last week when we didn’t have the ball Fab’s numbers were incredible. We know what Fab can do with the ball and if he can chase and work hard when we don’t have it and do that dirty work that’s a big plus for us.

“We have flexibility in the front third and we’ve always been a team that’s looked dangerous going forward – whoever has started or come on has done their job which is a great headache to have and hopefully that continues for the rest of the season.

“We’re confident that whoever starts in those front four positions is going to give us something and score us goals,” Okon said.

Although the Mariners are celebrating three wins on the bounce, Okon says that no one is getting too carried away but hopes it will earn his side more respect.

“One win against the Wanderers, who I consider to be a top team, is not going to define our season,” Okon said. “We do believe that in other games against the bigger teams at home against Sydney & City we were definitely worthy of three points.

“If people don’t believe it, we’ll just continue to do what we’re doing and hope that it means more wins, continuation of good performances. We’re not saying we’re in the race to make the top six but it’s our job as a club to stay in the running for as long as possible. If we can get three points this week it will bring us even more into that equation.

On the eve of the match, Paul Okon added Michael Neill to his extended squad. 

Central Coast Mariners Squad: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 2.Storm ROUX (c), 3.Scott GALLOWAY, 4.Jacob POSCOLIERO,  5.Harry ASCROFT, 7.Fabio FERREIRA, 9.Roy O’DONOVAN,  11.Connor PAIN, 12.Trent BUHAGIAR, 13.Kwabena APPIAH, 14.Adam BERRY, 16.Liam ROSE, 17.Josh BINGHAM, 19.Jacques FATY, 20.Paul IZZO (gk), 21.Michael NEILL, 22.Jake McGING, 24.Reece PAPADIMITRIOS, 26.Steve WHYTE
***Two to be omitted***    

Ins: 19.Jacques FATY (return from injury),  21.Michael NEILL (promoted), 26.Steve WHYTE (promoted)

Outs: 8.Nick MONTGOMERY (suspended – 1 week)

Unavailable: 10.Mickael TAVARES (ankle injury – indefinite), (23.Jake ADELSON (ACL – indefinite), 6.Blake POWELL (knee – 1 week)

Melbourne Victory squad: 2.Jason GERIA, 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Marco ROJAS, 8.Besart BERISHA, 10.James TROISI, 11.Mitch AUSTIN, 13.Oliver BOZANIC, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Alan BARO, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.James DONACHIE, 19.George HOWARD, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21.Carl VALERI (c), 23.Jai INGHAM, 40.Matt ACTON (gk)
**two to be omitted**

Ins: 16.Rashid MAHAZI (promoted), 19.George HOWARD (promoted)

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: Nil

Match Details 
Hyundai A-League 2016/17 – Round 20
Sunday 19 February 2017
Central Coast Mariners vs. Melbourne Victory
Venue:  Central Coast Stadium, Gosford 
Tickets:  CLICK HERE 
kick-off:  5:00pm (AEDT)
Official hash-tags:  #CCMvMVC & #CCMFC
TV Broadcast:  Fox Sports 505
Radio Broadcast:  96.3 Coast FM & 92.5 ABC Central Coast