Roar bite Mariners in Bluetongue thriller

The Central Coast Mariners last night went down 4-3 to the Queensland Roar in one of the most entertaining and enthralling encounters of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season at Bluetongue Stadium.

The Central Coast Mariners last night went down 4-3 to the Queensland Roar in one of the most entertaining and enthralling encounters of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season at Bluetongue Stadium.

Perhaps the Mariners- most vital clash of the campaign in regards to their chances of a successful Hyundai A-League Premiership defence, the home side were exceptional in attack but unfortunately found wanting at the back.

Although denied at least a share of the spoils by the odd goal in seven, Mariners Members and supporters would have been thrilled by a gripping contest played out in front of 11,454 spectators on a typically steamy January evening on the Central Coast.

Nik Mrdja ignited the goal feast for the yellow and navy on five minutes before Sergio Van Dijk-s double, Tahj Minniecon-s solo special and a Pedj Bojic own goal ensured the Roar took home all three points despite Matt Simon-s second half brace.

With Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek among the colourful and vocal Bluetongue Stadium gallery, Simon was one of many standout performers on another evening that underlined the quality and entertainment value of the Hyundai A-League.

"We-re disappointed, after going up 1-0 early and then dominating the game chance wise as well, but giving away a goal two or three minutes before half time and two or three minutes after half time killed us," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.

"With a bit of luck we could have jagged that equaliser at the end, but we shouldn-t have needed to come back after being up 1-0 that close to half time."

Mrdja was the first to score for the Mariners on the back of a sharp Simon cross from left hand side of the penalty area.

Simon fired the ball across goal and after strike partner Dylan Macallister just failed to intervene with his head, Mrdja took one touch and made no mistake with a solid right-footed drive from close range.

The Mariners had a chance to extend their lead late in the first half from Adrian Caceres and would soon lament that miss when Van Dijk tucked home his first of the evening and third of the season against the Mariners from close range.

Van Dijk made it two for the visitors four minutes after the break when Matt McKay lofted a ball from the left wing onto the head of the Dutch marksman, who made no mistake to hand the visitors the advantage.

Standout local product Simon drew the game level ten minutes later when capitalising on Dean Heffernan-s expert through ball and then negotiating the challenge of advancing Roar ‘keeper Griffin McMaster.

Simon-s goal was his milestone tenth of the Hyundai A-League season - the first time a Mariners player has reached double figures during a Hyundai A-League campaign.

Minniecon restored the Roar-s lead midway through the second stanza with arguably the goal of the evening - a memorable solo advance through the Mariners backline and accurate shot on goal that Vukovic was helpless to prevent.

The visitors fourth came from the luckless boot of defender Bojic, who deflected Minniecon-s cross into his own net to leave the Mariners with a mountain to climb in order to post the win needed to keep their hopes of back-to-back Hyundai A-League Premierships alive.

Simon again showcased his tireless qualities when drawing the home side to within a goal ten minutes from full time - slotting his second of the match after out foxing Roar captain Craig Moore and showing the poise required to beat McMaster.

Simon-s strike ignited the yellow clad audience and were it not for a pair of stunning stops from McMaster in the final minutes, the Mariners might yet have come away from their penultimate home match of the regular season with something to show for their efforts.

The Roar-s win all but ends the Mariners- hopes of retaining their Hyundai A-League Premiers Plate, but with two rounds still to play, Finals Series football is again a most realistic proposition for the yellow and navy.

"We-re confident we can make the Finals Series, but we can-t give away goals like that, especially in the Finals Series and then going into Asia - we have got a lot to play for in the next six months," said McKinna.

"There was some good football played by both teams and eleven and a half thousand people would have gone away happy having seen an exciting game, but it-s disappointing to have lost the goals that we did.

"It wasn-t scoring that was the problem it was keeping at least three of them out and it was Queensland-s night tonight."

The Mariners- Hyundai A-League campaign continues in the Victorian capital on Friday, 16 January, where the yellow and navy are set to face Hyundai A-League highflyers the Melbourne Victory at the Telstra Dome. Kick off is at 8pm.

The Mariners will be back at their Bluetongue Stadium home on Sunday, 25 January to host AFC Champions League finalists Adelaide United in the final regular season round of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 campaign. Kick off is at 7pm.

Tickets for this match are on sale from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Bradley Porter, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Dean Heffernan (6. Andre Gumprecht 73-), 9. Nik Mrdja (22. Sasho Petrovski 76-), 10. Adrian Caceres, 11. Dylan Macallister, 17. Matthew Osman (15. Andrew Clark 46-), 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon

Unused Subs 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk)

Yellow Cards Porter 59-, Caceres 73-, Clark 76- Red Cards None Goals Mrdja 6-, Simon 55-, 81-

Queensland Roar 20. Griffin McMaster (gk), 3. Luke Devere, 4. Craig Moore, 5. Josh McCloughan, 7. Michael Zullo (2. Andrew Packer 90-+3), 8. Massimo Murdocca, 9. Sergio Van Dijk, 12. Tahj Minniecon (21. Tommy Oar 87-), 15. Matthew McKay, 17. Mitch Nichols (16. Hyuk-Su Seo 90-+1), 18. Danny Tiatto

Unused Subs 40. Matthew Ham (gk)

Yellow Cards Moore 12- Red Cards None Goals Van Djik 43-, 49-, Minniecon 60-, Bojic 72-OG

Referee Matthew Breeze Crowd 11,454