Young Mariners charting course for Sydney, and the title

The Mariners have played over 2070 minutes of football in this campaign, but it is the next 90 that will define their season. The equation is simple; win or draw and they’re a chance of taking the premiership, emulating the efforts of their senior counterparts two seasons ago.

The Mariners have played over 2070 minutes of football in this campaign, but it is the next 90 that will define their season. The equation is simple; win or draw and they-re a chance of taking the premiership, emulating the efforts of their senior counterparts two seasons ago.

Fortunately the Young Mariners can go into this weekend-s encounter with the knowledge that they have achieved the goal that they set as a group when they began pre-season training so many moons ago. Last Saturday-s come-from-behind victory over the Newcastle Jets secured the Young Mariners a place in the upcoming finals, a huge achievement for a squad that was very much underrated before the season.

Head coach Tony Walmsley was extremely relieved to see his side achieve their goal and in the process demolish their Pluim Park demons.

"It-s a great achievement for the boys, they-ve reached the goal that they set themselves at the start of the year which was to make the finals. I thought we showed great character, and I wouldn-t diminish or take away the fact that we played very well. We just conceded a couple of goals we would-ve preferred not to," Walmsely said.

The Mariners displayed all their attacking flair in last weekend-s encounter, creating many chances in the process. Ironically though, it was the Jets who started the game stronger, and indeed managed to hit the front with two goals in a ten-minute blitz either side of half-time.

"We started slowly against the Jets and it wasn-t until we nicked an early goal that we actually got a foothold in the game. Once we started passing the ball around quickly we were hard to contain. It was a very controlled and very assured performance in possession.

"Even in the second half despite conceding the goal, we started brightly and once we got our initiative back we played really well," Walmsley said.

All three of the Mariners goals came from strong attacking play. Matthew Crowell was the first to find the back of the net, but it was the introduction of the bench players that ultimately would decide the game.

"The finishes were brilliant our bench really performed well in the game. The first graders put in a good shift for us but they-re going on their break now so it-s now over to the youth. They have a chance now to claim the premiership and go into the finals with a positive win," Walmsley said.

The Young Mariners Achilles heel throughout this campaign has been a loss of concentration at critical times. So often have they taken the lead, only to concede shortly before or after a break in play. The squad has been working hard to address this issue going into the finals, but Walmsley believes it-s an experience issue and one that can be overcome.

"It affects footballers at all levels and youth players perhaps even more so. There are areas we need to work on absolutely. As a coach on the bench we see areas that the guys need to work on but sometimes the message doesn-t translate," Walmsley said.

There are two variables standing in the way of a possible premiership win for the Young Mariners. One can not be controlled, the outcome of the match between Perth Glory and the Jets. A positive result for Perth and they can still leap-frog the Mariners into top-spot. The Second variable is their rivals at the southern end of the F3.

Sydney FC are the defending National Youth League premiers and they are not going to give up their title lightly. This game also looms as season defining for the boys in sky blue as they have to win to secure fourth sport.

Coming off an eventful 3-all draw with Adelaide United and desperate to avenge two losses to the Mariners, they will be journeying up the F3 primed to play the game of their season.

Matches between the two rivals have produced memorising football from both teams, and if history is anything to go by, Saturday will be no different.

Tony Walmsley is under no illusions about the challenge awaiting his charges.

"We have to win to have a chance to win the premiership, which is an incentive in itself. Sydney have to win to stay alive in the finals race. It should be a cracking game. It will be another tough game against them, we-ve beaten them twice but neither game was easy," Walmsley said.

Also in the Mariners favour is the fact they have thrown the proverbial monkey off their backs by defeating Newcastle at Pluim Park, their first success at the ground in five attempts.

"It-s good for the boys to get a win at Pluim Park, and especially good for Damien Brown. I don-t have many superstitions around football. I believe if they stay in the moment and keep doing the simple things well then it doesn-t matter where we play.

"I-m very happy to have the game at Pluim it-s in good condition and looking forward to taking on Sydney here," Walmsley said.

History will created one way or another at Pluim Park this Saturday afternoon.

Saturday-s clash with Sydney FC is the 6th competitive fixture between the two rivals, the second at this venue and will conclude the 2009/10 home and away campaign.

Previous Meetings

Sat 1 Nov 2008 Central Coast Mariners 1 Sydney FC 2, Sydney Football Stadium. (L) Sat, 13 Nov 2008 Central Coast Mariners 1 Sydney FC 3, Bluetongue Stadium. (L) Sat, 14 Feb 2009 Central Coast Mariners 0 Sydney FC 1, Pluim Park. (L) ? Sat, 3 Oct 2009 Central Coast Mariners 3 Sydney FC 1, Seymour Shaw Park. (W) Wed, 23 Dec 2009 Central Coast Mariners 2 Sydney FC 1, Sydney Football Stadium. (W)

Central Coast Mariners squad: Mathew RYAN (GK), Nik MATIC (GK), Shane HUKE (OA), Panny NIKAS (C), Matthew LEWIS, Brady SMITH, Adam ORMSBY, Mitchell DUKE, Scott McGINLEY, Mitchell MALLIA, Matthew LIDDALL, Bernie IBINI-ISEI, Nick FITZGERALD, Gavin FORBES, Jerry KALOURIS , Brendan GRIFFIN. *one to be omitted*

UNAVAILABLE: Nathan SHERLOCK (ankle - 2 weeks), Manny GIANNAROS (groin - 1 week)

Sydney FC squad: Hussein AKIL, Luke AUSTIN, Joel CHIANESE, Sam GALLAGHER, Joseph GIBBS, Tim MCGOWAN, Sam MUNRO (C), Nenad VEKIC (GK), Iain RAMSAY, David VRANKOVIC, Antony GOLEC, Paul MACKEY, Steve TIBBETS, Mark PULLMAN (GK)

UNAVAILABLE: Dimitri PETRATOS (Suspended - 1 week), Kofi DANNING (Knee - season), Rhyan GRANT (Ankle - season), Matt Jurman (Foot - season)

Referee: Kurt AMS

The Central Coast Mariners National Youth League team are in action this Saturday 6th March when they take on Sydney FC at Pluim Park, Lisarow. Kick-off is at 4:00pm AEST.