Young Mariners Primed For Coastal Invasion

The Central Coast Mariners National Youth League side may be just 90 minutes away from a Grand Final blockbuster, but should they qualify, they would have done it the hard way, after such a gruelling campign.

The Central Coast Mariners National Youth League side may be just 90 minutes away from a Grand Final blockbuster, but should they qualify, they would have done it the hard way, after such a gruelling campign.

A scoreless draw against inaugural NYL champions Sydney FC last weekend meant that the Young Mariners faced an anxious wait to see where they would ultimately finish on the NYL table.

Five hours after the fulltime whistle at Pluim Park they would have their answer. The Mariners were premiers, becoming just the second side in the clubs short history, following the heroics of the Hyundai A-League squad of 2007/08, to achieve the honour.

"It-s a great feeling, and I-m delighted for the boys because they-ve put in so much effort over the past few months, but the job isn-t done yet.

"We can enjoy this today but we-ll be back at training this week concentrating on the job at hand, and that-s winning a semi final this week, and ultimately the Grand Final in two weeks time," said NYL head coach Tony Walmsley.

The Young Mariners rode their luck in the match against Sydney FC and despite the best efforts of the side as a whole could not break down a ruthless defence intent on keeping their own season alive.

The Young Mariners have been scoring goals all season, 48 of them in fact throughout the 2009/10 campaign and the challenge is to do so again this Saturday afternoon when they take on Gold Coast United.

Saturday-s encounter will be a continuation of one of the great rivalries in the competition. The three meetings between the two combatants during the regular season produced three very memorable results.

The two sides met for the first time on Saturday, September 19 at Bluetongue Stadium. The points were shared after a 92nd minute penalty allowed the Mariners to escape with a 3-all draw.

Mariners captain Panny Nikas playing in his first match in the NYL announced his arrival with a bang netting a brace. His first goal was a spectacular 25-yard thunderbolt, and his second was the match-saving penalty. The Gold Coast too showed glimpses of their potential with striker Chris Harold also netting a brace.

Hostilities were resumed at Southport Tigers Ground on December 6. Arguably this was the match that helped propel the Mariners towards the premier-s title that they would ultimately claim. Following this match the Mariners would go on a run of four consecutive victories to rocket up the table.

The Gold Coast had turned the ground into something of a fortress by this stage and had not been beaten going into the game against the Mariners. That all changed under a blazing Queensland sun when the Mariners produced their most free-flowing attacking game of the campaign to return to the Coast 5-2 victors. There were 7 different scorers in the game, with Chris Harold again proving to be a thorn in the Mariners side netting another goal for the Gold Coast.

By now the rivalry had been well and truly established. When the Gold Coast team jetted into Gosford on January 22, they were desperate to salvage some pride against their coastal rivals. For the majority of the match the Gold Coast completely outplayed their Central Coast rivals. In the end it was two late strikes from Jerry Kalouris and Bernie Ibin-Isei that allowed the Mariners to again steal the points at the death from the Gold Coast.

Saturday-s encounter promises to be one of the most enthralling matches of the season. The Gold Coast earned a spot in the finals at the expense of Sydney FC after drawing 1-all against Adelaide United last weekend, while as mentioned the Mariners are coming off a scoreless draw against Sydney.

To the victor will go the ultimate spoils, a place in the grand final to be played in Melbourne in a fortnight-s time.

Matches between the two clubs have produced plenty of goals, plenty of drama, and plenty of passion. On paper they are two very evenly matched sides that both play good football. It-s hard to believe that the rivalry only began this season.

Last weekend the Mariners had the benefit of a huge crowd that rode every emotion of the game urging their team to victory. The Young Mariners are hoping to see a sea of yellow and navy when they take to the Pluim Park turf shortly before 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon.

In a rivalry that has developed so rapidly there are sure to be plenty more twists and turns.

Saturday-s clash with Gold Coast United will be the fourth competitive clash for the ‘Battle of the Coasts-, and more significantly it is both team-s historic first semi-final clash.

Previous Meetings

Sat, 19 Sep 2009 - Central Coast Mariners 3 Gold Coast United 3, Bluetongue Stadium. Sun, 6 Dec 2009 - Central Coast Mariners 5, Gold Coast United 2, Southport Tigers. Fri, 22 Jan 2010 - Central Coast Mariners 2, Gold Coast United 2, Bluetongue Stadium.

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

Unavailable: Nathan SHERLOCK (ankle - 2 weeks)

Gold Coast United Youth squad: Jerrad TYSON (gk), Mitchell BEVAN, Koh SATAKE, Zac ANDERSON, Steven TOPALOVIC, Ben HALLORAN, Neko VUJEVICH, Chris HAROLD, Ben HARRISON, Steven LUSTICA (c), Callum HARE, Ben WEARING, Joshua BRILLANTE, Richard GREER, James BROWN, Tahj MINNIECON, Reuben WAY, Tim ANDERSON (gk) *three to be omitted*

Unavailable: Golgol MEBRAHTU (hamstring injury - indefinite)

Referee: Stuart Wolfe

The Central Coast Mariners National Youth League begin their maiden finals campaign this Saturday, 13 March when they take on Gold Coast United at Pluim Park, Lisarow. Kickoff is at 4:00pm AEST.