Mariners celebrate a club great and a home win

By Corinthian (Paul Green):
Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2015/2016 – Round 25
7:40pm Saturday 11 April, 2015 – Central Coast Football Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (Josh Rose 2′)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC  0

Almost ten thousand people turned up at Central Coast Stadium last Saturday night for what was not only the Mariners’ final home game of the current season, but the last home appearance, as a player at least, of foundation team-member, John Hutchinson; and a swan-song from departing striker, another fan-favourite, Matt Simon, who the club elected to release at the end of what has been a campaign that never really got off the ground.

The Mariners’ fans gave their departing heroes some generous applause when they left the field, towards the end of the game, against last-placed Western Sydney Wanderers, a match that which was decided as early as 90 seconds after kick-off, by a crisp finish from left-back Josh Rose.

The Wanderers provided stiff opposition, creating a greater share of the chances, but lacked the same, almost inevitable, desire as their hosts, who were determined to give their captain, Hutchinson, the best possible send-off.

Of course there are two more matches to go in this somewhat forgettable season, but both are away from home, indeed the next one is across the Tasman in New Zealand, in a match the Mariners will probably play as if they have nothing to lose, with Wellington keen to get as high as possible among the top-five clubs where they are currently placed.

The Mariners haven’t won many games this time around and it’s been difficult to gain much momentum, with players leaving and new ones coming in, at an alarming rate all season.

Here they had relatively new striker, Fabio Ferreira, doing his best to show his wares, but being  constantly thwarted by a well-drilled Wanderers, for whom Matthew Spiranovic made his return from injury after missing several games recently.

Although regular captain Nicolai Topor-Stanley was not considered for selection after battling some niggling injuries for weeks now, the return of Spiranovic and the solid form of impressive youngster Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Aspro for short, gave the visitors some semblance of authority along the backline, where flankers, Sam Gallaway and Antony Golec, made life hard for the Central Coast wingmen as well, much of the time.

But while they looked solid for most of the game, the damage had already been done before they had time to settle down.

We’ve all seen what Josh Rose can do when let loose down the left channel and given good supply, with the attack-minded wide-defender already weighing in with a goal or two this term.

Here, with Anthony Kalik starting a game for the first time this season and star midfielder, Anthony Caceres, seen at his best in both mopping up roles and as a creator in the centre of the park, the Mariners soon gained the ascendancy.

Caceres released Kalik down the left, who in turn slipped the ball through for the speedy Rose to run onto and with second-choice keeper, Dean Bouzanis, given another outing at the expense of veteran Ante Covic, the Wanderers were asking a lot of their seldom-fielded custodian to be as battle-hardened and sharp as the vastly-experienced, Covic as Rose finished off the rapidly- crafted move with a slick finish.

In any other match the Wanderers might have been expected to overcome that early deficit and storm back for the win, but this Western Sydney side is struggling in no small measure to get eleven fully-fit men out on the field from game-to-game, with matches coming up almost twice a week throughout a season of much turbulence.

While the Wanderers had the depth to make a good fist of it against the mostly mediocre Mariners, they really would have felt the absence of such attacking weapons as Nikita Rukavytsya, who struggles to avoid injury much of the time and Mark Bridge who has also struggled in recent weeks.

Allied to that was the need to rest Labinot Haliti and the two Japanese players, right-back Yusuke Tanaka and creative-midfielder, Yojiro Takahagi.

The Wanderers brought a good number of supporters with them, some of whom announced their presence with a flare or two, early in proceedings, but for the most part they were subdued compared to their usual continuous cacophony of sound for the entire ninety minutes, at their own Parramatta Stadium.

The Mariners, meanwhile, were mainly interested in lauding Hutchinson and Simon, though the latter only made it onto the field in a token gesture from the 83rd minute.

Hutchinson had left the scene in an emotional sequence that had the former Morwell/Gippsland Falcons (in all their later guises, such as Eastern Pride late-lamented), Northern Spirit and for the first ten years of the A League, a popular Central Coast Mariners’ stalwart, warmly applauded in a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.

Simon, who is in his second spell with the club, is also leaving and the crowd gave him a rousing reception as well.

The match? Oh it was not a memorable one, it has to be said, with the desire to go out on a winning note, for both the home team and the captain, uppermost in the minds of many.

The Wanderers, whose own away form has been unspectacular, one big win in Brisbane apart, did what they could to get back in the game, with winger, Romeo Castelen, the pick of their players and another new striker, Alusine Fofanah, in some ways a slighter version of the former, making a decent impression in a rare appearance.

Liam Reddy, a big performer between the posts for the Mariners so often this season, didn’t have quite as much to do as he has in a lot of other games, but he still had to be alert to deny Castelen in the 12th minute, after Nick Kalmar had started a promising move from out on the right.

Reddy in the 24th had to be the reliable last defender, twice, to deny young Fofanah, as Kalmar once more did the prompting for his new team mate.

Fofanah had struck Liam Reddy in the face, as the newcomer tried to finish off a strong move, with the loose ball falling to Kalmar, who in turn tried to take advantage of Reddy being still in mid-recovery, but hard working Mariners’ midfielder, Nick Montgomery, got there quickly to cover and save Reddy’s blushes.

Castelen and the now regular Wanderers’ goalscorer, Kerem Bulut, had combined well five minutes before that, with the two bearing down on Reddy’s goal, only to see the latter blazing wide when well-placed to equalise.

Central Coast had a few useful corners in that first-half, but nothing came of any of them and Bouzanis was barely troubled again.

Caceres and Ferreira, who was under a throttle-hold from the astute Wanderers’ defence for most of the game, got something going eventually, with the Brazilian’s cross just eluding the earlier goalscorer, Rose, when the ball was whipped in after 33 minutes.

Anthony Kalik in the 37th worked well with Caceres to create another opening, but the local midfielder put his effort over the bar.

Wanderers looked more purposeful after the break, with Bulut more prominent, his 70th minute shot deflected wide, following the close attention of some industrious Mariners’ defenders, fully focussed on getting the win to send their captain off in style.

Rose went close again in the 77th and Bulut clipped one over the bar in the 80th, but as the clock ran down it looked as if Tony Walmsley’s men would walk tall and claim the points.

It was announced a day or so later that the Interim Head coach, the club’s Technical Director, Walmsley, after extensive canvassing for a new coach, had accepted the role himself for next season, with the change of fortunes since his arrival a major factor in the board’s decision to hand him the permanent role for a full 2015-16 campaign, with Hutchinson likely to figure among the coaching staff alongside the newly-appointed coach.

“It’s the last time I’m going to play here, I just want to thank my teammates for sending me out a winner at home. It’s an amazing feeling the reception I got from the fans and the members…I’m so grateful,” said Hutchinson when it was all over.

Match details
Crowd:  9,548 official

Central Coast Mariners FC:  12. Liam REDDY (gk);  2 Storm ROUX, 5 Zac ANDERSON, 25 Eddy BOSNAR, 3 Joshua ROSE; 7 John HUTCHINSON (c) (16 Liam ROSE +81′), 23 Isaka CERNAK (19 Matt SIMON +83′),  8 Nick MONTGOMERY, 10 Adrian CACERES; 26 Fabio FERREIRA , 20 Anthony KALIK (11 Nick FITZGERALD +59′)
Subs Not Used: RGK 1 Matthew NASH, 24 Hayden MORTON

Yellow Cards: Zac Anderson 47′, Nick Montgomery 90’+4; Red Cards: Nil
Coach:  Tony Walmsley

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (gk); 25 Sam GALLOWAY (39 Shane D’CUNHA +89′), 13 Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 37 Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 6.Antony GOLEC;  8.Mateo POLJAK, 18 Iacopo LA ROCCA (23. Jason TRIFIRO +59′); 33 Nick KALMAR (38 Steve KUZMANOVSKI +69′), 14 Kerem BULUT, 31 Alusine FOFANAH, Romeo CASTELEN
Subs Not Used: RGK 1 Ante COVIC, 9 Tomi JURIC

Yellow Cards: Sam Galloway 16, Ante Covic 53, Alusine Fofanah 62; Red cards: Nil
Coach: Tony Popovic

Ratings and points

Match 6/10
Pitch 7/10
Referee:  Adam Fielding 5 /10

Player points:
3.  Nick Montgomery (CCM)
2 . Anthony Caceres (CCM)
1.  Romeo Castelen (WSW)

Photos: Lowenna Rappo for BOTN

John Hutchinson

John Hutchinson