Mariners team ethos yields success

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

Hyundai A-League – Season 2013/2014 – Round 16
7:45pm, Saturday 25 January, 2014 – Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners FC 3
(Anthony Caceres 13′, Daniel McBreen 31′, Matt Simon 45’+2)
Newcastle Jets FC 0

Another home game: another positive result.

This is Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford [Ed. soon to lose the brandname], fast becoming the fortress that coaches like to talk about, but often cannot achieve. Certainly Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers have not managed that degree of reliability at home, this season.

As usual it was the team ethos of the Mariners which yielded their latest home success, on this occasion in the time honoured F3 derby, against Newcastle Jets.

Sometimes a change of coach brings with it a change of fortunes, at least in the short term and often on debut.

There were certainly changes, Jets’ Interim coach Clayton Zane opting for a new system for the team he had just taken over, having been at the club as its Women’s team coach for more than a year.

But Central Coast coach, Phil Moss, relatively new to the job himself and a former team mate of Zane in the old National Soccer League at Northern Spirit, was not for wielding change himself, electing to pick the same starting eleven which had earned a valuable 1-0 away win in Sydney a week earlier, even if it meant leaving out long-time captain, John Hutchinson, who had missed that match due to suspension.

Moss decided that, for once, he could field the same team, a luxury he had rarely enjoyed due to a stream of injuries and other departures, the latest being play-makers, Michael McGlinchey, off to Japan and Marcos Flores, sidelined with injury.

So pleased was Moss with the performance of Anthony Caceres in that previous match against Sydney FC, in covering for Hutchinson’s absence that he chose Caceres to start this game, with good club man, Hutchinson, warming the bench.

Moss was rewarded in spades as Caceres drew massive confidence from his coach’s backing by going on a wonderful solo run after only 13 minutes to hand the Mariners the lead.

Caceres came from deep inside his own half, brushing aside challenge-after-challenge, going through the middle on a slalom-like path, eventually getting to within 25 yards of goal and having the cheek to let fly with a superb, swirling shot that beat acclaimed Jets’ keeper, Mark Birighitti, with ease, as the ball flew into the roof of the net.

That goal certainly silenced the Jets’ supporters, seated at that ‘wrong’ end of the stadium.

It was to be an end the fans would wish they’d not been given to sit, as two more super- strikes were to give Central Coast a 3-0 half-time lead.

Despite some strong running from Newcastle on the flanks and regular assaults on the Mariners’ defence by Newcastle skipper, Ruben Zadkovich, the visitors could not manage any goals in a first-half where they did little wrong, at least going forward, but a great deal in other areas.

Jets’ coach Zane admitted as much afterwards, when explaining his non-selection of returning Australian Under-22 representative Andrew Hoole for that first-half.

Zane put his faith in Joshua Brilliante, whom he felt had done well in recent games and would not be tired from lengthy travel.

By the time he got Hoole on at the half-time break, the damage had been done, agonising for the debut-making young coach who saw Hoole make a huge second-half impression.

Mariners, meanwhile, made hay, as Caceres dominated in midfield and stand-in captain, Nick Montgomery, kept a firm defensive hold in front of a well-tested defence.

Moss brought Hutchinson on at the hour mark, but it was not Caceres who made way, the coach hooking Montgomery instead and the arm band passed back to Hutchinson for the remainder of the match, although his application and dedication to the task meant that he distractedly kept the armband in his hand, for some time, before finding the time to attach it properly.

Hutchinson put in a good shift, as had Montgomery, but there were many willing hands in fashioning this 3-0 win which took the team to second-place, at least overnight.

Jim McBreen was looking a lot more confident and as a Newcastle native he was probably extra-motivated to succeed, after some glaring misses since returning from a loan spell in China. He looked vastly improved on this occasion, although he’d been playing well, but without the sharpness close to goal that he’s renowned for.

He had a shot saved well by Birighitti at the near-post in the 18th minute and made good on his obvious enjoyment by putting the finishing touches to a lovely passing move which went from left-to-right and involved most of his team’s attacking players.

Lively wingman, Nick Fitzgerald, got things moving down the left and the ball passed through Matt Simon before McBreen exchanged passes with Fitzgerald closer to goal, before pivoting adroitly and firing a well-directed shot past the keeper from the edge of the penalty area, in the 31st. 2-0 Mariners and the home crowd was ecstatic.

Newcastle had been far from idle going forward, but Liam Reddy was in fine touch and the central defenders did their work well, too.

But they got one lucky let-off in a period of the game when they clearly switched off mentally, relying on Jets’ marquee signing, Emile Heskey, to butcher a virtual open goal opportunity in the 45th minute.

That could have made it 2-1 and given the Jets a lifeline to cling to when they returned from the break.

But Heskey scooped Adam Taggart’s ball back in from the flank, well over the bar, after being allowed through far too casually by an errant Mariners’ backline, which glaring miss set up an instant response from the home team.

Central Coast won a corner on the left and when it was swung over in the dying seconds of the two minutes of time added on, Matt Simon, somewhere in the six-yard box and facing the near post managed to meet the ball with an angled header. His effort was then able to find its way in at the far post, which had been left unguarded; this time, perhaps, the Jets were the ones guilty of switching off.

That 3-0 lead was to prove enough to secure the points, despite Zane reorganising a few things, throwing on Hoole, then Nick Ward for Taggart, in the 67th, whose partnership up front with Heskey still needs some polishing, plus Michael Bridges for defender Samuel Gallaway over the final 15 minutes, but all to no avail.

Some dogged and certainly fully-focussed defending by the Mariners for the entire second-half kept Newcastle scoreless and it certainly wasn’t for any lack of trying on the visitors’ part.

Reddy had to race off his line when exposed one–on-one with Taggart in the 55th, the keeper saving with his feet brilliantly.

An appeal for handball against Mariners’ defender, Zackary Anderson, went unheeded by referee Jarred Gillett in the 58th.

Nick Ward also went close with a shot that brushed the post after a lovely ball provided by an on-fire Hoole in the 73rd.

Phil Moss was delighted with the win, while Clayton Zane put his hand up and admitted that things did not go as well as he’d hoped and his selections and change of system may not have helped.
“Our first half was right up there and I think we probably raised the bar a little bit from last week, particularly in our execution; we took our chances,” Moss said.
“(But) second half I wasn’t happy with a few things and I thought we left ourselves open, so we are still striving for that complete performance. But of course you don’t want it this early; we’ll save it for later in the season.”
“There are aspects that we (still) need to work on. At times we gifted them some chances just through our own sloppiness so we need to work on that,” he said.
Moss spoke about his selection dilemma.
“I am delighted for young Anthony Caceres,” he said. “I thought he was great in midfield and took his goal so well.”
“We all know at the Mariners it’s all about the team and not the individuals, and ‘Hutch’ (Hutchinson) took it so well, like the true Champion he is. He was the first one to congratulate ‘Cass’ (Caceres) yesterday when he was announced in the team, and told him to ‘go out there and take the bull by the horns’.”
“I do feel for ‘Clacker’ (Clayton Zane), Moss admitted.
“I didn’t want to do that to him first up as I know what it’s like to lose three-nil and he’s going to have a tough week.

Zane himself tried to be as analytical as possible, rather than agonising or brooding over the result.
“I did try to fire the players up at half-time, but this is a very good Mariners’ outfit,” he said.
“We were rattled a little bit by the quality of their early strikes.
“We changed from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 and it’s a big change. I threw them to the wolves a bit, I suppose,” he confessed.
“In hindsight I could have started with Andrew Hoole, if I’d know he was that fit, but I went with those I thought were less fatigued and Brilliante has been playing well, so I went with him.
“I certainly am not going to blame Emile (Heskey) for his glaring miss, I’ve been there myself and I know that it’s not as easy as it looks.
Zane also said he didn’t know when latest signing, Joel Griffiths, would be ready to play and would have to wait and see before including him in his side.

Overall it was a positive result for the Mariners, who were beginning to look like dropping off a little, just after Moss took over from Graham Arnold in early November.

“This is a work in progress,” Moss said.
“We’re a Championship-winning club, not a Championship-winning team,” he emphasised.
“This is a new team, really. It’s nice to reach second spot, but we’re not the finished article by any means.

But Moss must have been pleased with his team’s defensive efforts in the second-half where time and again the Jets were thwarted by some backs-to-the-wall blocks and clearances, as every man stuck to the game plan.

Zachary Anderson had to move up front, when suffering more ankle problems, McBreen dropping back as he did in previous games, but Anderson had to come off in the 89th and the ten-men left maintained their commitment to the final minute of four in stoppage-time.

It’s going to be tough over the next two weekends with a visit to Brisbane and then a return home game against Melbourne Victory in early February.

Moss knows those two games are crucial in maintaining that hard-won second spot.

Match details
Official Crowd: 10,920

Central Coast Mariners FC: Liam Reddy (gk); Storm Roux, Trent Sainsbury, Zachary Anderson, Joshua Rose; Nick Montgomery (c1) (John Hutchinson (c2) +60′); Mile Sterjovski (Bernie Ibini +60′), Anthony Caceres, Daniel McBreen, Nick Fitzgerald; Matthew Simon (Mitchell Duke +72′)
Subs not used: Justin Pasfield (rgk), Brent Griffiths

Coach: Phil Moss
Cautions: Bernie Ibini (CCM) 87′

Newcastle Jets FC: Mark Birighitti (gk); Jacob Pepper, Taylor Regan, Kew Jaliens, Sam Gallaway (Michael Bridges +77′); Joshua Brilliante (Andrew Hoole +46′), Ruben Zadkovich (c), Zenon Caravella, Craig Goodwin; Emile Heskey, Adam Taggart (Nick Ward +67′)
Subs not used: Ben Kennedy (rgk), Josh Mitchell

Coach: Clayton Zane
Cautions: Kew Jaliens (NJ) 38, Taylor Regan (NJ) 38, Emile Heskey (NJ) 59

Points and ratings

Referee: Jarred Gillett 6/10
Pitch 9/10
Game 8/10

Player Points:
2. Anthony Caceres(CCM)
1. Daniel McBreen (CCM)
1. Ruben Zadkovich (NJ)
1. Bernie Ibini (CCM)
1. Andrew Hoole (NJ)

By Corinthian (Paul Green)