Simon spearheads quest for redemption

Having served his one-match AFC Champions League suspension, Central Coast Mariners striker Matt Simon is a welcome boost to a Mariners team focused on restoring some bruised pride at the Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium on Tuesday night.

Having served his one-match AFC Champions League suspension, Central Coast Mariners striker Matt Simon is a welcome boost to a Mariners team focused on restoring some bruised pride at the Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium on Tuesday night.

With the Mariners- 5-0 thumping at the hands of J.League heavyweights Kawasaki Frontale at Central Coast Stadium a fortnight ago still fresh in the minds of all that have made the trip to Kawasaki, the reigning Mariners Medalist looms as a pivotal figure in the Central Coast-s quest for not only respect, but competition points.

With half of the group stage of the AFC Champions League 2009 completed, the Mariners are three points adrift of second-placed Pohang Steelers and one ahead of China-s Tianjin Teda, consequently needing at least two more wins - in all likelihood - to have a chance at qualifying for the Round of 16.

With that in mind, Mariners members and supporters are excitedly awaiting the re-emergence of Simon and his hot streak of form in front of goals, where the 23-year-old has been nothing short of exceptional for his hometown club throughout his breakthrough season in Australia-s top flight.

"The last result was a pretty bad one and we-ve got to turn that around, it was the worst result in the club-s history and it was quite embarrassing for the boys," said Simon.

"We-re looking forward to showing that we are a quality side and that we can compete with these teams."

Should Simon start against Kawasaki Frontale as expected, he will move to within one appearance of his 50th in all competitions in yellow and navy - a scarcely believable milestone some three years ago when the local junior was a virtual unknown to Australian audiences.

Three seasons after first joining the Mariners in a part-time capacity in time for the 2006 Pre-Season Cup, Simon has earmarked himself as one of Australia-s genuinely exciting attacking talents - a tag vindicated by his outstanding 12 goal haul from twenty Hyundai A-League and AFC Champions League starts in 2008/09.

While Simon-s pending return on Tuesday night is generally a positive one for members and supporters of the yellow and navy, his added expertise in Asia will also be of considerable boost to the Mariners- chances.

Simon broke his long forgotten scoring drought in Malaysia when playing for the Qantas Under 23-s against Chile in May of last year, before adding another four by the end of the tournament.

Further appearances in green and gold against the Korea Republic at Under 23-s level and against Indonesia and Kuwait for the Qantas Socceroos have well and truly schooled Simon to the Asian style of football, which the Mariners themselves will be better prepared for on Tuesday night.

"We saw Kawasaki-s fans at Central Coast Stadium and they had quite a good following there, so I-m hoping and expecting a big crowd here," said Simon.

"They are a very good side, but having watched all of their goals from the grandstands, it was a case of five mistakes coming from us.

"I don-t think that they-re a five-goal better team than us and if we can fix those mistakes and have good discipline, I-m pretty sure that we can get a result.

"It-s always heart-breaking to sit on the sidelines and watch games, especially when you watch your team-mates go through what they did last time - I-m really looking forward to getting back out there and hopefully getting on the score sheet."

The Mariners- inaugural AFC Champions League campaign will continue at the Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium on Tuesday, 21 April, when the yellow and navy will again face Kawasaki Frontale. Kick off is at 8pm AEST.

The Mariners will return to their Central Coast Stadium home for Match Day 6 of the AFC Champions League to face the challenge of Chinese Super League heavyweights Tianjin Teda on Tuesday, 19 May. Kick off is at 8pm.

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