Young Mariners Grind Out Victory

The Central Coast Mariners have regained top-spot on the National Youth League ladder with a hard fought 2-1 victory over southern rivals the Melbourne Victory this afternoon.

The Central Coast Mariners have regained top-spot on the National Youth League ladder with a hard fought 2-1 victory over southern rivals the Melbourne Victory this afternoon.

Wyoming junior Brady Smith netted his first goal of the campaign before Melbourne-s Luke Pilkington canceled out his effort. In the end it was a Panny Nikas penalty that separated the two combatants after ninety minutes.

Mariners head coach Tony Walmsley was impressed with the efforts of his team to grind out a victory.

"Definitely happy with the result, I think a few things performance wise we weren-t at our best today but to grind out a result was very pleasing.

"We were a bit slow in making decisions today and they were a good side who press forward well and are strong up front," Walmsley said.

The opening twenty minutes were tough and uncompromising with both sides intent on testing each other. Each side was focused on consolidating their defence and as a result there were very few opportunities for the attacking players. Defenders Luka Dukic, Manny Giannaros, and Nathan Sherlock were looking particularly composed and were breaking down the Melbourne attack with methodical precision.

The first chance of the match fell to the visitors from the Victorian capital after 25 minutes. The shot from Nathan Elasi was on target before a desperate Nathan Sherlock was able to get a foot to ball and help it on its way over the byline.

The Mariners- reply was swift with Dylan Macallister making a break upfield. The Hyundai A-League marksman zeroed in on the target after some effective footwork saw him throw off Melbourne-s Bradley Norton. Macallister took the unselfish option of providing a perfectly weighted cross for Brady Smith to volley home in the 26th minute. It was Smith-s first goal of the campaign and was just reward for the efforts of Smith over the previous few rounds.

The Mariners nearly scored moments later when Mitchell Mallia, after an incisive run down the left-hand edge, was able to put in a lovely weighted cross to Dylan Macallister. Unfortunately for the latter the bounce of the ball denied him the chance to take advantage of this opportunity with the ball coming into contact with his hand.

Melbourne-s Nathan Elasi seemed determined to erase the deficit single-handedly and he almost achieved this on the half hour mark when a weaving run saw him split the Mariners defence. Only a diving Matthew Ryan thwarted the Victory striker.

Elasi has made a habit of scoring against the Mariners, having netted a hat trick the last time the two sides met and he again forced Ryan to make a save minutes later.

The Mariners enjoy beginning their attacks deep in their own territory and perfectly timed pass from Manny Giannaros found an unmarked Brady Smith who almost doubled the lead for the home side. From the resulting corner a Shane Huke header agonisingly shaved the post.

It was clear that the Young Mariners were beginning to hit their straps with the final chance of the half falling to Dylan Macallister who thought he was in the clear until Melbourne-s goalkeeper Sebastian Mattei was able to head the ball clear.

The Achilles Heel of the Young Mariners throughout this season has been conceding goals after breaks in play, and again it proved to be the case today. The Mariners defence so effective in the first half seemed to suffer a momentary lapse in concentration in the 52nd minute. Melbourne-s Luke Pilkington was able to take full advantage and was able to net a goal virtually unopposed. It was a confusing passage of play with plenty of bodies in the penalty box but no one was able to clear the ball out of danger.

The Mariners next two scoring chances came to players with extensive Hyundai A-League experience. An Andrew Clark header almost saw the home side regain the lead before Dylan Macallister had a great scoring chance with a one on one opportunity with the ‘keeper. Unfortunately for Macallister his shot ended in the side netting.

Melbourne-s next chance again fell to Elasi but a covering tackle from Giannaros thwarted the striker in his efforts to get his shot away.

Elasi almost got his name on the score sheet moments later but a brilliant one-handed save from Matthew Ryan thwarted the Victory striker once again.

Macallister again provided a well timed cross to Brady Smith but unlike their combination in the first-half, this time the Melbourne defence were able to put pressure on the Mariners young striker who put his shot just wide.

Smith had a chance to give the home side the lead two minutes later but this time his shot sailed over the crossbar.

Fortune tends to reward those who take chances and in the 84th minute the Mariners received a penalty.

Referee Kurt Ams ruled that Melbourne-s ‘keeper Sebastian Mattei impeded Macallister when the latter went up to contest an inswinging corner.

Despite the ‘keepers protestations Ams pointed to the spot giving the Mariners a chance to regain the lead.

Captain Panny Nikas stepped up as he has done on several occasions this campaign and completed bamboozled the Melbourne ‘keeper audaciously waiting for him to dive the wrong way.

It continued a great week for the young man who displayed his loyalty to the club by proudly kissing the emblem.

Gavin Forbes had a chance to give the Mariners a two goal buffer deep in injury time after some brilliant lead-up work by Nick Fitzgerald who had a strong game, but was denied by the Victory-s ‘keeper.

The Mariners fought hard and in the end were able to grind out a victory, which now gives them a three-point buffer on the table ahead of rivals Gold Coast United.

"It was a great counter attack that lead to the goal, I-m pleased for Brady to get a goal as a reward for his efforts.

"It was a goal that could have been avoided but it-s good in a way because those situations are character building for a young players to see how they respond," Walmsley said.

"It actually took us fifteen minutes to get a foothold back in the game but I-m pleased the guys responded really well in the last ten minutes.

"We finished the game better and our passes were a lot better it was good passing that led to the corner that led to the penalty. However there were long passages in the game where we weren-t as happy as we would be normally.

"The key for us now is to finish in a finals position which was our goal at the start of the year.

"As a coach I-m a fan of gritty wins where you have to work hard as well as the five nil victories.

"It-s very satisfying to know that the lads have competed hard for ninety minutes to grind out a result," Walmsley said.

The Mariners' next match of the National Youth League season will be against Brisbane Roar at Bluetongue Stadium next Saturday, 19 December. Kick-off is at 3:15pm. Tickets are available online here or by phoning 132 849.

Mariners Four Match Christmas Packs are available online by clicking here

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Matthew RYAN (GK), 2. Nathan SHERLOCK, 5. Luka DUKIC, (3. Jerry KALOURIS 62-) 6. Manny GIANNAROS, (4. Matthew LIDDALL 62-) 8. Nick FITZGERALD, 10. Panny NIKAS (c), 11. Mitchell MALLIA, 12. Shane HUKE, 14. Brady SMITH, 18. Andrew CLARK, (9. Gavin FORBES 62-) 19. Dylan MACALLISTER

Unused Subs 20. Nik MATIC (GK).

Yellow Cards Giannaros 20-, Forbes 69-, Smith 76- Red Cards None Goals Smith 26-, Nikas 85- (pen)

Melbourne Victory: 1. Sebastian MATTEI (GK) (c), 2. Diogo FERREIRA, 3. Bradley NORTON, 5. Petar FRANJIC, 6. Kliment TASESKI, (15. Simon Tolli 45-) 7. Matthew THEORDORE, (11. Antonio LA VERDE 62-) 8. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS, 9. Craig SWEENEY, 10. Nathan ELASI, 12. Tedros YABIO, (17. Matthew DEMO 59-) 14. Luke PILKINGTON.

Unused Subs 20. Stefaan SARDELIC (GK)

Yellow Cards Tolli 63-, Demo 67-, Mattei 84- Red Cards None Goals Pilkington 52-

Referee Kurt AMS