Paul Okon previews Pink Round

This Sunday, the Mariners play host to Melbourne Victory at Central Coast Stadium for Pink Round, as the Mariners do battle against last season’s runners-up for their second home game of the campaign. 

Despite a strong attacking performance and an early lead, the Mariners’ Round three trip to Perth ended in a last-ditch defeat. Wout Brama’s 15th minute strike wasn’t enough to secure a win for the visiting team, with goals to Andy Keogh and Adam Taggart putting Perth ahead 2-1 by the final whistle.

Melbourne Victory couldn’t put an end to their winless streak in Adelaide last week, coming home with a 2-2 draw. Besart Berisha gave Victory an early lead, and a brace from Vince Lia put the Reds ahead 2-1, but a late equaliser from Mitch Austin ensured both teams walked away with only one point apiece.

Most significantly for the Victory, on Thursday Besart Berisha was handed a two-match sanction by the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee, after an incident between the striker and the fourth official during last week’s match.

This means Melbourne Victory will be without their most prolific goal scorer for their visit to the Central Coast, and will have to enact a Plan B against a full-strength Mariners squad.

At the end of last season, Melbourne Victory scraped home with 1-0 win against the Mariners at AAMI Park. This Sunday, the Yellow and Navy will have a golden opportunity to take back the glory and three points on their home turf.

Paolo in the Press

“It’s always a big game when you play against Melbourne Victory, and it’s our second home game,” Okon said. “Last time we were there the result was disappointing, we want to change that on Sunday. We know that with Melbourne Victory you need to put together 95 minutes of mistake free football.

“The fact that we’ve taken the lead in every game means we’re doing something right, so that’s a big positive, but we’re disappointed that we haven’t been able to keep the lead and go on and win the game. That’s an area that we speak about a lot, and it’s part of our preparation, but obviously under pressure decisions need to be made fast, and over the last couple of weeks at crucial times we’ve made the wrong decision, which has cost us goals and stopped us from winning games.” Okon said.

“Melbourne Victory has been one of the best sides for a number of years, and the way that they play football hasn’t really changed much. They’re a threat, they’re a very physical team, they’re a fit team. We expect that they’re going to come at us hard, but if we’re serious and we want to win the football game then we’ll have to deal with that. Hopefully that won’t be an issue, and we can play the football that we want to play.”

“We have a certain way of playing, the players enjoy executing it.

“We’re a dangerous team, we can score goals, throughout pre-season we’ve show that we also can defend, we had a number of games against good opposition where we kept clean sheets. We’ve just at times forgotten about those principles and made some silly decisions. We’re aware of it, it’s cost us. Hopefully on Sunday we’ll see an improvement on that.

Okon addressed Victory striker Besart Berisha’s recent two-match suspension, which will make him unavailable for selection this Sunday.

“From our perspective, we’ve planned all week to play Melbourne Victory, not to play Besart Berisha. They have enough quality players in their squad to replace him - it’s a loss but whoever steps in there will be motivated to perform, and whoever it is we’ll make sure that we’re ready.

“Kosta Barbarouses could play up top, potentially one of their wingers could also do that,” said Okon. “It’s not about who is going to replace Berisha -  Melbourne Victory are coming, and we need to be fully prepared for everything.”

Okon spoke about Dutch midfielder Wout Brama, last week’s man of the match and goal scorer for the Yellow and Navy.

“Wout Brama is an important player in this team. He was brought to this football club for performances like last week’s, and hopefully on Sunday he will be at that level again and will be for the rest of the season.”

“It’s never one player, it’s always a sequence of moments that lead to goals scored and also to goals conceded, and on Sunday we let ourselves down with some poor decisions, possibly fatigue played its part after a long travel. We’ve freshened up, we’ve trained really well, and we’re all really enthusiastic about performing well and winning this football game.” Okon said.

This week the Mariners will don a pink kit for the sixth consecutive season, to raise awareness for women’s cancer support services, an issue that is close to the hearts of the Central Coast Mariners.

“I think that’s one of the many great things that the Mariners support in the community.” Okon said.

“I think everyone will have been touched by a personal situation where they’ve lost a friend or a family member through Breast Cancer. We have one of our goalkeepers, Ben Kennedy, who lost his mother not long ago, so it’s a special day for all of us, but more importantly for Ben as he remembers his mother and the good times he had with her, and we hope to make that an even more special day for BK by winning the football game for him.”

Opta Stat-Attack

  • Melbourne Victory have now gone four games without a victory, the last time they went longer was a five-game drought in January-February 2016.
  • Central Coast Mariners (1,579) have made 180 more passes than any other team in the competition this season a boast a league-high 80.9% passing accuracy.
  • Melbourne Victory have been fouled 58 times so far this season, eight more than any other team in the competition.
  • Mariners duo Alan Baró (218) and Wout Brama (207) have attempted more passes than any other players this season.
  • Leroy George increased his season tally of chances created to 10 at the weekend, the joint-most of any player in the competition alongside Diego Castro.

Match Details 
Sunday, 29 October 2017
Hyundai A-League Round 4
Match: Central Coast Mariners vs. Melbourne Victory
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS AUSTRALIA
Hash-tag: Join the match conversation using #CCMvMVC & #CCMFC