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Central Coast Mariners edge luckless Wellington Phoenix

Mariners 1 Phoenix 0

Trent Sainsbury is sent flying.

Trent Sainsbury is sent flying. Photo: Brendan Esposito

After more than a decade, club football was back at North Sydney Oval on Thursday night. And judging by the reaction, perhaps we won’t have to wait so long until next time.

Instead of Central Coast tackling Wellington Phoenix in the oft-humdrum of Bluetongue Stadium, they did so in the convivial confines of one the state’s most storied venues.

Yes, there was even some old Northern Spirit paraphernalia on show. How long those jerseys must have been gathering dust in the cupboards of Mosman and Cammeray.

Marcos Flore looks to the sky before the game. Click for more photos

A-League: Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix

The Central Coast Mariners defeated Wellington Phoenix 1-0 at North Sydney Oval on Thursday night. Photography by Brendan Esposito. Like these photos? Go to www.fairfaxphotos.com Follow us at twitter.com/photosSMH Photo: Brendan Esposito

Despite all the rapscallion talk of relocation and boycotts in weeks prior, the mood in the air was positive. No Mariners fan should feel threatened by the prospect of playing a match or two here every year.

Nor should owner Mike Charlesworth get too carried away by the occasion’s mild success. The final crowd of 6,755 was reasonable – certainly given the opponent and the midweek pre-Christmas date – and one which embraced the evening’s novelty value. With only 3000 needed to break even, Charlesworth earned a tidy profit.

The pitch could best be described as a fast and bouncy wicket, not least because multiple cricket pitches lurked under the venue’s grass. Fortunately, no WACA-sized cracks opened up as the match wore on.

But the overly slick surface made fluidity difficult and the rock-hard foundations which posed issues in the NSL days naturally reared again.

A first half goal to Storm Roux was enough for the Mariners to grab the win though coach Phil Moss conceded it was anything but convincing.

“It wasn’t one of our prettiest performances. I thought we ground out the three points,” he said. “But coming off the back of a pretty bad performance down in Adelaide [losing 4-0], I think it showed a lot of mental strength to find a way to win. We were masters of our own undoing regards to possession. We gave away too much cheap ball.”

Winless Wellington coach Ernie Merrick could only laugh at his sides’ inexplicable misfortune around goal as they slumped to another undeserving defeat.

“This is week in week out, it just keeps going on and on,” he joked upon entering the press conference. “We had chance after chance after chance… but we still haven’t scored regularly in games. It’s always a goal here and a goal there but not consistently and that’s the frustrating part.”

Chances were few early on though the game eventually came to life and Mariners keeper Liam Reddy had to stand tall by pulling off a string of saves when challenged by the Phoenix’s front pairing of Stein Huysegems and Jeremy Brockie.

No matter what the Phoenix tried they couldn’t break Reddy’s resolve, although he did have to rely on Nick Montgomery once to clear his lines.

Moss’s decision to stick with the veteran keeper despite his unpleasant outing against Adelaide was vindicated by a man of the match display.

Not to be outdone, Phoenix keeper Glenn Moss was also having a night to remember and he too denied repeat efforts from the Mariners.

But with chances at either end starting to rise, something had to give. Eventually it was Mile Sterjovski who curled a ball into the path of Daniel McBreen, and while the burly striker did his best to control the ball, it ultimately bobbled into Roux’s path.

The New Zealander, despite never scoring an A-League goal, showed plenty of composure to break Moss’s dogged resistance for what proved the match-winner.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been the deciding moment. Just minutes after half-time, Roux looked to have turned from hero to villain when he fouled Manny Muscat in the box, leading Kris Griffiths-Jones to blow for a penalty. But Reddy’s box-office night continued, diving to his left to deny Huysegems.

Not to be outdone, Moss replied with a top save from Marcos Flores and then a world-class stop from a scintillating Nick Fitzgerald effort. Clearly, the stars of the show were wearing gloves.

The Phoenix launched wave after wave going forward to find an equaliser but a mixture of sloppy finishing – particularly one late effort from Brockie – and Reddy brilliance ensured their winless run continued.

 

6 comments so far

  • If that was a penalty we might as well forget any semblance of fairness in the A League. This year the officiating has been worse than Saturday morning cricket at Moore Park umpires, whose average age and commensurate eyesight quality would be in the geriatric range, but that was the worst and most blatant dive this year. Can't even blame the North Sydney Oval lights which seem to be the same ones as the 1970's pre season RL games...

    If the A League refereeing can't get drastically better soon it will start to show in crowd figures. Pay peanuts, get monkeys, and we have them in packs...

    Then again, the less than fashionable but honest and constantly losing stars to overseas clubs Mariners seem to strangely get more than their share of bad calls. Maybe they have had their one championship and now the money men in the FFA want the pretty boys to get them their big finals crowds? Hmmm...

    Commenter
    Duke
    Date and time
    December 20, 2013, 7:09AM
    • I'm extremely please for Liam Reddy. He's had his well-documented up and downs, but he's shown top line professionalism since being given a life-line by CCM FC this year. At this rate, he still has a good 4 or even 5 years left in A-lg football.

      Commenter
      FOOT (spherical) BALL
      Location
      Chatswood
      Date and time
      December 20, 2013, 7:22AM
      • It was a fabulous night, and a great precinct for football. I'd go again.

        Commenter
        FOOT (spherical) BALL
        Location
        Chatswood
        Date and time
        December 20, 2013, 7:25AM
        • If Phoenix can beat Roar and melb. Victory in their remaining games this season, they would have saved their football season.
          Ernie and Phoenix - you can still do it. Do yourselves and the A-lg a big favour by beating these two.

          Commenter
          FOOT (spherical) BALL
          Location
          Chatswood
          Date and time
          December 20, 2013, 7:28AM
          • Disappointing game, 2 weak teams just embarrassing to call it football. Meritocracy at it's best!!
            Loco

            Commenter
            loco
            Date and time
            December 20, 2013, 9:06AM
            • Do you believe that place was good for football?
              6,700 watched ??? Pitch lousy with crickets patches. It is joke. It is Professional league not some kind district game. If someone in Europe or Asia watch the game they will game nice comments about that pitch ...joke.
              If North Sydney wants professional football club the first step- find good ground not that one.
              Marines should stay in Gosford..

              Commenter
              football4me
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              December 20, 2013, 10:16AM

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