Mariners show resilience but not creativity

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

Hyundai A-League – Season 2013/14 – Round 13
5pm, Sunday 5 January, 2014 – Central Coast (Bluetongue) Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners FC 0
drew with
Melbourne Heart FC 0

Once again Central Coast Mariners proved their resilience at home, overcoming the setback of losing Japan-bound midfield star, Michael McGlinchey, only hours before the game, due to sudden illness and injuries to Marcos Flores, out now for the remainder of the season and young prospect Michael Neill, injured during the Youth League match the previous day.

Without the departing McGlinchey and the sadly sidelined Flores, the Mariners struggled for creativity for most of the first half against a re-invigorated Melbourne Heart, now coached again by foundation coach, Dutchman John van’t Schip and captained by a much-fitter Harry Kewell.

In difficult and unexpectedly breezy conditions most of the football played lacked any fluency, with Heart doing their best to keep as much of the ball as possible and creating some chances, which were good ones, but were not snapped up.

Harry Kewell, in a free role, was one of the main instigators, ably assisted by former Brisbane Roar star Massimo Murdocca, with Iain Ramsay and Mate Dugandzic doing much of the leg-work down either flank.

Front-runner, Maltese international, Michael Mifsud, had been disappointing in recent games, but while scoreless he did feature in most of the likely scoring moves here.

Unfortunately for him, he was agonisingly wide of the mark more than once.

He struck the left-hand upright, after running onto a nicely weighted through pass from Kewell, in the 14th minute, looking certain to score, only to roll his carefully-measured shot against the woodwork, with Mariners’ keeper, Liam Reddy, scrambling to get across in time.

Four minutes later Iain Ramsay volleyed just wide from right-sided midfielder, Mate Dugandzic’s, cross.
Kewell was supplier once more in the 32nd, as Mifsud, again, chased the ball through towards the far post, forced wide by Liam Reddy and unable to get his left foot into a good enough position to strike the target, his fumbled effort seeing the ball go out for a goal kick, instead.

There were few chances for the home side in the first 45 minutes, though a good cross from Mile Sterjovski might have yielded better, but none of those rushing into the six-yard box could connect with the swiftly-travelling ball across the face of goal.

The second-half saw Heart continue to play good football, but the Mariners had, by that stage, stepped their game up a notch.

In perhaps the best chance of the game for the home side, in the 64th minute, Sterjovski crossed low for Daniel McBreen, but Heart keeper, Andrew Redmayne, beat the 35 year old to the ball, taking some physical punishment in the process.

The introduction of Matt Simon off the Mariners’ bench in the 65th for Sterjovski produced a higher tempo approach, as well as deploying Simon as the fresh target man, with Mitchell Duke and McBreen doing more of the running from behind.

The substitution worked well and the midfield was bolstered with the fresh legs of Anthony Caceres in the 78th, on for Nick Montgomery.

The latter had gone close with a low, diving header off a cross from the right that flew just wide, earlier on.
Heart substitute, David Williams, on for Dugandzic in the 68th, proved a lively source of potential goals, but he was again wayward when in sight of goal, as he had been a few times in recent games.

Coast defender, Joshua Rose, also had a good chance in the 67th, from a Matt Simon knock-down, but the left-sided player could only fire wide of the upright.

Duke had one late chance, but as with all others in the game, it was not enough to produce a goal, least of all a last-minute winner, as had happened in the previous home game against Perth Glory.

Phil Moss was generally pleased with his team’s efforts knowing what they had been through in the busy New Year period and suffering the recent devastating losses of Flores and McGlinchey.

“We pride ourselves on winning our home games and we came up a bit short today,” Moss said post-match.
“We had three great chances, so it could well have worked out (differently).”
“The positive is that we kept a clean sheet and that we created enough chances to win the game.”
“Seven weeks ago if you’d said we’d be in third spot in the first week of the New Year I would have ripped your arm off and run a mile.”
“We’re very happy with where we are sitting, but it’s a log-jam and one result either way at the moment can make a big difference, so we’re not getting carried away with the ladder position,” he said.

Van Schip was philosophical about his own team’s efforts.
“I think we dominated in the first-half and most of the time we controlled the game,” he said.
“They had two good chances in the second-half, but we had more of those ourselves in the game.
“It was good to see Harry Kewell playing at a high level for 90 minutes. Overall I was very pleased with the energy we showed and the way we played.
“I only took them for the first time on Friday, in the one session before this match and we’ll take it game-by-game and we’ll see if we can improve a lot and try to make the finals,” he said optimistically.
Asked if he would be bringing in any more new players he seemed doubtful.
“We may promote some young players from the Youth team, but we don’t have any spaces for any others, as we’re not planning on letting anyone go,” he said, endorsing the squad he has been left to see out the rest of the season with.
“Overall a draw is something I can live with,” he concluded.

Match details
Crowd: 8,062

Central Coast Mariners FC: Liam Reddy (gk) ; Storm Roux, Trent Sainsbury, Zachary Anderson, Joshua Rose; Nick Fitzgerald, Nick Montgomery (Anthony Caceres +78′), John Hutchinson (c), Mile Sterjovski (Matthew Simon +65′), Mitchell Duke; Daniel McBreen
Subs not used: Justin Pasfield (rgk), Marcel Siep, Brent Griffiths

Cautions: Daniel McBreen (CCM) 15′
Coach: Phil Moss

Melbourne Heart FC: Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), Robbie WIELAERT, Patrick GERHARDT, Iain RAMSAY (Stefan MAUK +77′), Massimo MURDOCCA, Harry KEWELL (c), Michael MIFSUD, Aziz BEHICH (Patrick KISNORBO +90′), Jason HOFFMAN, Nicholas KALMAR, Mate DUGANDZIC (David WILLIAMS +68′)
Substitutes not used: Tando VELAPHI (rgk), Andrea MIGLIORINI

Coach: John van’t Schip
Cautions: Nil

Ratings and points

Referee: Jarred Gillett 6/10; Assistants: David Walsh, Leigh Pigram; 4th official: Stephen Lucas

Pitch 8/10
Game 7/10

Player Points:
3. Massimo Murdocca (MH)
2. Harry Kewell (MH)
1. John Hutchinson (CCM)

By Corinthian (Paul Green)

Photos: Lowenna Rappo