Skipper navigates course to Grand Final

Leading the Central Coast Mariners’ charge towards a third Hyundai A-League Grand Final berth will be captain Alex Wilkinson, who is convinced that the yellow and navy have the quality to challenge for silverware in season four.

Leading the Central Coast Mariners- charge towards a third Hyundai A-League Grand Final berth will be captain Alex Wilkinson, who is convinced that the yellow and navy have the quality to challenge for silverware in season four.

The Mariners- most capped player, with 104 competitive appearances to his name, Wilkinson-s experience and leadership quality will be elementary to his side-s success in the coming weeks.

Against a Queensland Roar side in red-hot form and in particularly good touch in front of goal, Wilkinson-s marshalling of the Mariners- backline will also be crucial to the Mariners- chances.

"It-s very exciting times, this is what you play football for and we-ve been lucky enough to have qualified for the Finals Series again, where so far we-ve got a pretty good record," said Wilkinson.

"Pretty much everyone in the team has experience in a Finals Series, which is a good thing for when the pressure games come - it-s good to have a team that is battle hardened and very experienced.

"We-ve also done well going forward this year and we go into all games confident that we can score at least one goal, so I think it-s just a matter of getting the defensive side of things right as a team and from there on we-ll be fine."

Wilkinson will lead the yellow and navy into a Hyundai A-League Finals Series for the second time in his young but vastly experienced career on Friday night.

The youngest skipper in the Hyundai A-League, 24-year-old Wilkinson wore the armband throughout the Mariners- quest for the Hyundai A-League Championship in 2008, which ended with a 1-0 defeat to northern rivals the Newcastle Jets on Grand Final day.

Wilkinson has now captained the Mariners in a competitive fixture on 47 occasions and is just five starts short of recording more appearances as captain than inaugural skipper Noel Spencer, who accumulated 52 starts with the armband before leaving the yellow and navy for the Jets ahead of season three.

Wilkinson, along with team-mate Danny Vukovic, is the only Mariners player to have started all seven Hyundai A-League Finals Series matches that have featured the Mariners since their inception.

"The boys don-t think too much about the past results, but Queensland are in form at the moment and it-s going to be a tough game," said Wilkinson.

"They-re scoring a lot of goals at the moment and not conceding too many, but we put three past them a few weeks ago and that gives us a bit of confidence.

"We-re more than confident that we can go in to the game, get a good first up result at Bluetongue Stadium, then take the tie up to Queensland and hopefully qualify for the Preliminary Final."

The Mariners- third Finals Series campaign will begin with a blockbuster clash against the Queensland Roar in the Minor Semi Final - 1st Leg at Bluetongue Stadium on Friday, 6 February. Kick off is at 8pm.

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