Wellington win in bizarre Cup circumstances

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

Westfield FFA Cup 2015 – Round of 32 – Game day 4 feature
7:30pm, 11th August 2015, 2015 – Central Coast Stadium, Gosford Tuesday

Central Coast Mariners FC 0
lost to
Wellingtom Phoenix FC 1 (Kwabena Appiah-Kubi 17′)

 

Wellington Phoenix managed to navigate their way through their opening match in the FFA Cup for the 2015-2016 season with a 1-0 win over an all-at-sea Central Coast Mariners outfit, who were playing in front of a Round-of-32 record crowd of 6,111 at Central Coast Stadium on Tuesday night.

Still finding their feet after a closed-season that heralded their first full campaign under new coach Tony Walmsley, the Mariners tried their best to play good football, which was to their credit, but were beaten in bizarre circumstances, it has to be said, not so much from their defensive frailties, or any lack of footballing enterprise, but by a moment of uncertainty from their debutant keeper, who will not want to be reminded of this outing for too long.

While the Mariners looked very much in warm-up mode and were well short of match-fitness, the visitors looked as if they’d not missed a beat since the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, which had seen them featuring as title-challengers for much of the campaign.

Although they had to fill the huge gap left by departing Socceroo, Nathan Burns, who was their top scorer in the previous season, they looked and played as if they were already operating in season-ready shape; but while they only scored once, purely through the sharpness of new recruit, Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, capitalising on the hesitancy of rookie keeper, Paul Izzo, they were still looking every inch capable of scoring more than just the one, for most of the match.

The Mariners, one glaring mistake apart, should also have been pleased with their night’s work, even if it means a few more friendlies before they kick-off their new A league season, rather than more FFA Cup matches to get them ready for business.

Wellington Phoenix have been drawn to play in Australia again, perhaps no great disadvantage for them, if expenses are met, as they can gain further valuable experience across the Tasman and test their readiness for the resumption of activities in October, as they are set to play Melbourne City in the Southern capital.

In this game, Central Coast named what could be seen as a strong side, though far from a full-strength one, with Liam Reddy an obvious absentee, Glen Trifiro, Eddy Bosnar and Anthony Kalik also missing, as well as youngster Josh Bingham.

But another young prospect, Jake McGing, who’s been starring in defence for the Central Coast’s National Premier League 2 team most of the season, was a starter here, as was Harry Ascroft.

The inclusion on the bench of Matt Sim, Liam Rose, first-team players for much of last season and the less-tried Mitch Austin and Jake Adelson, suggested that coach, Tony Walmsley, was not desperate to make it to the next round, though it might have been nice to do so.

With regulars such as Fabio Ferreira, Storm Roux, Josh Rose, Nick Fitzgerald, new skipper, Nick Montgomery and chief play-maker, Anthony Caceres, lining up as well, along with new-signing, Roy O’Donovan, it meant that home fans should have been happy enough with the array of talent on show.

Having said that, the team as a unit did look very much in preparatory mode and had a few cobwebs left to shake off.

O’Donovan was nominally one of the three strikers, with Ferreira and Rose shown on the team-sheet as the other attacking players on this occasion, but in truth, while Rose made his customary runs down the left flank and Ferreira made plenty of big incursions from out wide on the right, it was mostly O’Donovan, the Irish import, who was doing the bulk of the labouring through the middle.

O’Donovan had spent the previous year in the culturally arid Sultanate of Brunei, as a member of Roy Kean’s DPMM Brunei side, competing in the Singapore competition, scoring plenty of goals, though his most recent side fell just short of clinching a Singapore Cup, S. League Cup and S. League treble, winning only the first of those in mid-season and being out-gunned towards the ends of their campaign, partly through suspensions, with O’Donovan himself a notable absentee from some key late-season fixtures.

Here he looked the part and carried the load well, but the well-drilled – and make no mistake about that, they were – Wellington Phoenix defence, made sure that O’Donovan got little room in which to operate.

His 15 goals from 24 matches in the S.League suggested his abilities inside the penalty area would serve him well.

But his skills from the penalty-spot, itself, were less proven and when he stepped up to take a very late attempt from that opportunity, he hesitated momentarily, before smashing his effort against the angle of the right-post and the crossbar, allowing Wellington to advance with a 1-0 win, rather than taking them into an extra-time period very few in the stadium would have relished.

It remains to be seen how lethal the Irishman will be in the colours of Central Coast Mariners, as he failed to score in three seasons at Coventry City, some seasons back, with his 17 appearances with the Sky Blues spread over that period, having been a youth player at the club for several years, before returning to his native Cork to play for Cork City in the Irish League from 2005-07.

He’d also failed to find the net for Sunderland, after returning to England in 2007, with his goals mostly coming while on loan at neighbouring Hartlepool United, in the lower reaches of the Football League.

O’Donovan apart, and he cannot be criticised for his efforts in this one, the Mariners tried to play a passing game, building steadily from the back; but there was little penetration, once they made their way into the penalty area, one late indiscretion by Phoenix defender, Manny Muscat, aside.

One pleasing sign was the long-overdue return from injury of Michael Neill, who lasted an hour in the backline, with little sign of discomfort.

He, along with Jake McGing, provided a solid presence in a virtually all-new Mariners’ backline.

Phoenix, and let’s not forget them, could have stepped out of a time capsule from last season, so slick did they look in terms of shape and cohesion, with new signing, Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, slotting into the role vacated by Burns, almost seamlessly.

Most of last season’s side was intact and it showed. Roy Krishna and Albert Riera were in fine touch and who could forget Michael McGlinchey, the recipient of a fair degree of half-hearted booing from his former club’s fans?

McGlinchey was as lively as ever and so too was Roly Bonevacia, tucked in behind McGlinchey, Krishna and Appiah, alongside Matthew Ridenton.

This was a formidable opponent to strike first-up for the home team on a Tuesday night in late-winter, a night of the week traditionally not well-favoured by Mariners’ fans, especially during the club’s previous AFC Champions’ League campaigns, yet producing a crowd that stretched from behind one goal to occupy almost the whole of the Eastern Stand and boasting no fewer than 6,111 paying fans.

That was impressive on a cold night, with no season-ticket entitlements, or seats available in regular fans’ familiar seats on the main side of the stadium.

Even though their team was beaten, the fans stayed behind in large numbers to greet their players and clamour for autographs and photographs, as is the custom these days. The players were more than willing to oblige.

The attendance augers well for the season proper, once it gets under way, the new style of the team pleasing the fans, no doubt, as well as their slow adjustment to seeing so many new faces in the Blue and Navy.

The match began with the Mariners looking adventurous, with the midfield trying to get O’Donovan into positions of advantage, but a little rustiness may have been responsible, for instance, in the eleventh minute, when Anthony Caceres got away down the left and sent over a firm cross to the far-post, which the Irishman could just not get to in time, as he steamed in powerfully from the right.

A deep pass from Ferreira, two minutes later, produced a similar outcome as O’Donovan was just a little too well-taken-care-of by the tried-and-trusted Phoenix defence, when he tried to latch onto the cross, initially parried away by Phoenix keeper, Glen Moss.

In the 17th came disaster for the Mariners.

New keeper, Paul Izzo, thought he had only to take a touch with his foot to control a pass back from a defender, but that was enough for Wellington’s new signing from Western Sydney Wanderers, Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, to worry him out of it and as the ball was contested, it spun off the Wellington man’s boot and agonisingly for the home team, just over the line.

The front men from New Zealand’s premier team were buzzing around all game, showing a lot of toe, as they looked to add to their tally, Roy Krisha and Roly Bonevacia particularly impressive in and around the Central Coast penalty-area.

Krishna went close with a drive across the face of goal in the 22nd , while the ‘popular’ McGlinchey scraped the bar with a free-kick in the 40th.

The main openings for the Mariners came in the shape of a Nick Fitzgerald fast break upfield, that was interrupted by a telling-tackle from one of the mainstays of the Phoenix defence, skipper Andrew Durante, in the 27th.

As they went to the sheds, the game was still evenly poised, but with the Wellington backline looking in especially good touch.

Ferreira had a chance from a free-kick soon after the restart, when Jake McGing was brought down just outside the area, but Glen Moss was equal to it and his handling all match was of his usual high standard.

Both Ferreira and Fitzgerald had further chances for the Mariners in the second period, neither able to get their efforts on target and mostly restricted to shots from outside the area.

Then, seven minutes from the end, it looked like the Mariners might have their lifeline, with the foul punished by referee, Stephen Lucas, producing a penalty-kick, but not the desired outcome to keep the chilly home fans happy.

Mariners’ defender, that man McGing again, had climbed well to meet Liam Rose’s cross from the left, only to be brought crashing down by his Wellington marker.

O’Donovan clearly wanted to open his account for his new club, but a clue to his state of mind came after he picked up the ball and held it for a moment, before placing it back on the same spot.

He seemed to deliberate longer than expected and steadied himself, before rocking the angle of the right-hand upright with a shot clearly aimed high for the top corner of the net.

Wellington, who’d done little wrong defensively to that point, breathed a sigh of relief and one sensed that having survived that one scare they’d then prevail.

It was not a game of multiple chances, even near the end when more was at stake, but it was one that showed promising signs, though in different guises, for both clubs.

Mariners’ coach, Tony Walmsley, seemed relatively satisfied, with some qualification.

“We could see a lot of room for improvement in a lot of areas. There were some positives tonight; good forward momentum, a few good opportunities, a missed penalty and it could have been better, so I’m just disappointed that so many people turned up and we couldn’t get them a result.”

“There were some good performances for this early in the season. It was a very young backline for an experienced Wellington line-up, but there were some lessons to be learned and a lot of room for improvement.”

“Caceres and Fitzy are two of our linchpins – when they’re fully fit they’re going to be a real handful for any defence.”

“Now we get back to training, we’re in Canberra next week for a very intense camp and the emphasis will be on speed development.

“At times we looked a little bit laboured and I think once we get through Canberra you’ll see a shift in dynamics of the team physically.”

“Roy (O’Donovan) was lively, you can see the potency in Roy. It’s going to be a case of knowing where to deliver the ball and when to deliver the ball, to get the best out of him.

“It’s great that he took responsibility for the penalty and I’m just sad for him that he couldn’t notch a goal on his debut.”

Match details

Crowd: 6,111

Central Coast Mariners FC:  1. Paul IZZO (gk); 2. Storm ROUX (16. Liam ROSE 78′), 5. Harry ASHCROFT, 22. Jake McGING, 21. Michael NEILL (6. Mitch AUSTIN 61′);  8. Nick MONTGOMERY; 10. Anthony CACERES, 11. Nick FITZGERALD;  7. Fabio FERREIRA, 9. Roy O’DONOVAN, 3. Josh ROSE
Subs not used: 30. Adam PIERCE (gk), 15.Matt SIM, 17 Jake ADELSON

Coach: Tony Walmsley
Yellow cards: Harry Ascroft 40′, Storm Roux 76′; Red Cards: Nil

Wellington Phoenix FC:  1. Glen MOSS; 16.Louis FENTON, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 22.Andrew DURANTE, 2.Manny MUSCAT; 13.Albert RIERA; 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 23.Matthew RIDENTON; 11.Kwabena APPIAH (14 Alex RUFER 55 ), 10.Michael McGLINCHEY, 21.Roy KRISHNA (17.Vince LIA 75)
Subs not used: RGK 20 Lewis ITALIANO, 19.Tom DOYLE,  31.Andrew BLAKE

Coach: Ernie Merrick
Yellow cards: Albert Riera 34, Louis Fenton 52, Manny Muscat 57, Ben Sigmund 83, Glen Moss 90; Red Cards: Nil

Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistants: Lance Greenshields and  Leigh Pigram; Fourth Official: Ben Abraham

Ratings, etc.

Match 7/10
Pitch: 8/10

Weather: Cool, dry, light breeze

Players noted: Jake McGing (CCM), Nick Fitzgerald (CCM), Fabio Ferreira (CCM), Michael McGlinchey (WP), Andrew Durante (WP), Roy Krishna (WP)