Graham Arnold has declared his A-League champions are a work in progress after Central Coast started their tittle defence with a battling 1-1 home draw against Western Sydney.
Starting with just four players from last season's grand final-winning team, the Mariners struggled for fluency and penetration in the first half in Gosford on Saturday.
They picked up significantly after the break and looked set to take maximum points when Mitchell Duke finished well.
Substitute Tomi Juric struck late to secure a point for the Wanderers, who lost to the Mariners in last season's grand final.
Both sides showed enough tenacity and discipline to suggest they will be among this season's frontrunners.
"We know its going to be a tough season, but I don't personally as an experienced player feel that the pressure is on us as a team, because everybody knows we lost some big players," Mariner Nick Montgomery told AAP.
He confirmed expectations within the club remained high, with the recruits expected to maintain standards.
Montgomery also anticipated another strong campaign from the Wanderers.
"They are a strong team, they've got some good players and some experienced players," Montgomery said.
"I definitely think they will be there come the end of the season."
Mariners coach Arnold was delighted with the efforts of his two newcomers, fullback Storm Roux and playmaker Marcus Flores, who set up Duke's goal with an exquisite defence-splitting pass.
"Storm was outstanding, I thought he would have been close to man of the match," Arnold said.
"He kept Mark Bridge quiet.
"I thought Marcos was back to the Marcos Flores that we all know. A fantastic ball for Dukey.
"Once the front players get used to what he's doing and start getting on the same wavelength as Marcos, then I'm sure we'll get better and better."