Wilkinson wants Wellington hoodoo wiped

The Central Coast Mariners have to go back more than three years to their first ever visit to the New Zealand capital for their one and only victory over Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium, but skipper Alex Wilkinson is confident the current side can repeat the efforts of those Mariners pioneers back in 2007.

The Central Coast Mariners have to go back more than three years to their first ever visit to the New Zealand capital for their one and only victory over Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium, but skipper Alex Wilkinson is confident the current side can repeat the efforts of those Mariners pioneers back in 2007.

The aura of a trip across the Tasman has been significantly erased following the Phoenix-s 4-1 hammering at the hands of Brisbane Roar two weeks ago - their first defeat at the “Cake Tin” in 25 matches - and Wilkinson believes his side can double the dose.

“It-s great that someone has finally beaten them at home, it-s been coming for a while and it was an amazing record, so we-re going to look to go very there and get three points,” said Wilkinson.

“We haven-t won there in a long time, it-s usually a tough game and they-re good at home, but we-re going there full of confidence after two good wins and hopefully we-ll come back with three points.”

Following an injury to Pedj Bojic late in the side-s 5-nil thrashing of Perth at the Sydney Football Stadium two weeks ago, Wilkinson has found himself in the unfamiliar position of Right Back, but with Bojic-s impending return for Saturday-s encounter, Wilkinson is welcoming a likely shift back to his more familiar Central Defender role.

“It-s alright, I don-t mind getting forward a bit more, Pedj has done really, really well over the first ten games of the season but unfortunately for him he was out last week so I had to fill in. Fortunately we got a good result up there (against North Queensland) but hopefully Pedj will be back sooner rather than later,” Wilkinson said.

The captain-s ability to shift across the backline is testament to a versatility running through Graham Arnold-s entire squad.

“I think that-s what Arnie wanted to get at the start of the season, to have two at least two players for every position, and that works out perfectly because as soon as there-s an injury the next person steps in and Arnie has shown he-s not afraid to throw anyone in there.

“Musti (Amini) has played the last two games and we-ve got a pretty tough run coming up so I-m sure the (other) youngsters are going to get a go as well,” said Wilkinson.

After a period which saw the Mariners step onto the field competitively just once in 28 days, the side will find itself in the cauldron no less than nine times in five weeks, but it-s a prospect Wilkinson is relishing, and has every confidence the depth of the squad will stand up to such a stern test.

“We-ve got a pretty tough period at the moment, eight games in 35 days so it-s going to be tough and this is the time where we-re going to have to use the whole squad.

“The young boys have been going well in the youth team and they-re ready to step up whenever needed, so I-m sure over the next few weeks we-re going to see some guys getting their debut and new guys coming into the squad,” Wilkinson said.

One of those youngsters, 17-year-old Mustafa Amini became the 62nd player to wear the Yellow and Navy in the Hyundai A-League when he was introduced against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium three weeks ago, winning plenty of wraps from outsiders, and those within along the way.

“He-s been great. He stepped in like he is a veteran, especially against Perth which was his first start, and to step in and do as well as he did was fantastic. Now it-s just a case of him getting consistent week in week out, and a great talent for such a young boy,” Wilkinson said.

Amid the hard work facing the side ahead of an arduous weeklong road trip to Wellington and Melbourne, there-s been a lighter side to proceedings, with the entire squad competing in the facial hair growing stakes, to help raise money and awareness for Movember, and Mens Health.

“Mine-s not going too well, I-m trying to get a bit of a base, but Rosey (Josh Rose) has got a pretty filthy one at the moment and Macca-s (Daniel McBreen) starting to go ginger, so a few of the boys are looking good,” laughed Wilkinson.

Three points in Wellington, and the Mariners will have even more to smile about.