The Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets have played out a 0-0 draw at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night in a fixture where both sides failed to capitalise in the front third.
Head Coach Phil Moss was content with his men who kept a clean sheet but was adamant that the defensive structure was not his main focus going into tonight’s F3 Derby.
“I’m delighted with the clean sheet having shipped four goals against Sydney last week, that was one of our focuses this week but it wasn’t THE focus. Scoring goals has to be the focus and I thought we had enough chances to get something out of the game and win it,’ Moss said.
The home side had the first chance of the match through Montano, who picked up the ball in the six-yard box only to be stopped in his tracks by an imposing Zac Anderson.
Fabio Ferreira picked up where he left off from his man of the match performance against Sydney FC last week, causing havoc down the right wing and constantly asked questions of the Newcastle defence.
Moss praised Ferreira for how quickly he has adapted to the Mariners proactive style of play and added that the Portuguese winger’s best is yet to come.
“That’s Fabio’s first 90 minutes this season, he’s worked very hard at the club over the past three weeks to get himself to that level of fitness but I think he’s still only 70/80% of what he’s capable of," Moss said.
19 minutes in and it was again Montano who tried his luck from just outside the area, the Ecuadorian's strike drew a diving Liam Reddy into action who parried the shot behind for a corner.
Five minutes later it was the away team pushing forward through Nick Fitzgerald who broke down the right hand side, crossing a ball into Cernak who’s close range shot was dealt with by Kennedy.
The yellow and navy’s execution in the top third is something that Moss was critical of but paid credit to Newcastle’s custodian for his performance in front of the sticks.
“A few big chances didn’t go our way and I thought BK pulled off two great saves. The first from Montgomery’s volley in the first half that he finger tipped around the post and that one from Ferreira,” Moss said.
It was end to end action at Hunter Stadium, the Jets countered with a long range shot from the Serbian debutant – Enver Alivodic who called Reddy to action, the Mariners shot stopper pushed the attempt over the cross bar.
30 minutes in and it was Nick Montgomery who pulled the trigger from the edge of the area, his shot was placed superbly in the bottom right hand corner but a diving Kennedy evaded the danger. The Mariners continued to pressure the Jets area after the set piece but a scrambling Newcastle backline denied numerous opportunities.
The home supporters thought they had witnessed the opener through a stunning Mitch Cooper strike from distance that crashed into the crossbar, and deflected straight onto the line for no result, sending both sides into the sheds on even terms at half time.
Ferreira kicked off the second half with a charging run towards the Jets box, only to be illegally brought down on the edge of the area to win a free kick that the Mariners could not convert.
The 54th minute saw the Jets Serbian import, Alivodic break dangerously down the left flank who was chased down by Montgomery, his shot found only the side netting.
After a quiet five minutes of play Fitzgerald looked to grab the bull by the horns and drive a shot from 30 out and found the chest of Kennedy.
In the 64th minute Storm Roux ventured down the right wing, his marauding run ended in the Jets box with possession where he passed to Cernak who flicked the ball onto Rose for a shot that was deflected off a Jets defender.
In a game filled with long distance strikes, Ferreira was the next to buy a ticket with an attempt from 25 yards out. His curling right-footer was flicked over the cross bar by an outstretched Kennedy that denied what could have been one of the goals of the season.
The next fifteen minutes were played out under even circumstances and both sides failed to test the opposing area. Moss went to his bench with attacking substitutions in an attempt to break the game open in the closing stages.
“We changed things around to try and produce that big moment that was going to turn the game for us. We’re away from home and it’s not our responsibility to take the game to them but we came here to win today. We tweaked a few things, we put Fitzgerald into 10 for a while when we brought young Josh Bingham on,” Moss said.
Montano had a late chance for Newcastle in the 89th minute, with a powerful header from the edge of the penalty box, but the ball sailed over the bar.
In added time, substitute Glen Trifiro took a free kick from outside the box but his vicious curling effort soared just over the cross bar which ended the match on level terms.
Moss noted that he battled against his emotions to not bring John Hutchinson into action tonight.
“I always wrestle with trying not to be emotional about decisions and I would have loved to have given Hutch some gametime tonight but obviously the game was in the balance and I brought attacking substitutions on, to seize that moment. I’ve had a word to Hutch who’s all about the team and not about himself, he took the decision on the chin,” Moss said.
Newcastle Jets 0
Central Coast Mariners 0
Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Referee: Adam Fielding
Central Coast Mariners: 2. Storm ROUX, 3. Josh ROSE, 4. Jacob POSCOLIERO, 5. Zac ANDERSON 8. Nick MONTGOMERY (c), 10.Anthony CACERES, 11. Nick FITZGERALD, 12. Liam REDDY (gk), 16. Liam ROSE (28. Joshua BINGHAM 58’), 23. Isaka CERNAK (18. Glen TRIFIRO 76’), 26. Fabio FERREIRA
Substitutes not used: 1.Matthew NASH (gk), 7. John HUTCHINSON, 15. Matthew SIM.
Newcastle Jets: 2. Scott NEVILLE, 3. Taylor REGAN, 7. Enver ALIVODIC (27. Radovan PAVICEVIC 54’), 8. Zenon CARAVELLA, 12. Sam GALLAGHER, 13. Edson MONTANO, 16. Jacob PEPPER (c) (26. Nicholas COWBURN 84’), 19. Mitch COOPER (18. Allan WELSH 71’), 20. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 21. Daniel MULLEN, 22. Kiji LEE
Substitutes not used: 1. Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk), 10. Travis COOPER
Yellow cards: 8. Zenon CARAVELLA 28’