No shortage of flair in Gosford
By Corinthian (Paul Green):
Hyundai A-League Season 11 – 2015/16 – Round 1
5:15pm, Saturday 10 October, 2015 – Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Central Coast Mariners FC 3
(Roy O’Donovan 9′, Fabio Ferreira 58′ pen, 67′ pen)
Perth Glory FC 2 (Richard Garcia 23′, Gyorgy Sandor 90’+3)
Few fans expected fireworks when they turned up at Central Coast Stadium early on Saturday evening, after experiencing a mostly disappointing season in 2014-15.
But while it’s a little early to say that the Mariners are going to challenge for honours again, as they have so many times in the past, it looks certain that they’ll entertain and play a far more open kind of football than they have in recent years.
At times throwing caution to the wind and still looking vulnerable in some aspects of defence, Central Coast Mariners were up against another new-look side in Perth Glory and came out well on top, winning 3-2, a final score that perhaps flattered the West Australian visitors, who demonstrably ran hot and cold.
There was no shortage of flair from either outfit, several new players being on show, especially for Glory, who had well-documented issues with the salary cap last term and were punished with the loss of the Finals’-berth that their points-haul had earned them, having held top spot for much of the campaign.
Retaining their coach, Kenny Lowe, who’d taken over mid-way through the previous season and directed them well in 2014-15, it was matter of retaining those squad members who wanted to try again, despite the shock waves that had hit them earlier this year and precipitated a mass walk-out of playing talent.
Recruiting more judiciously this time, they had old hands like Michael Thwaite, Richard Garcia, Dino Djulbic and Chris Harold forming their core and then brought in some newcomers to leaven the mix.
Ante Covic was recruited from the Wanderers, albeit a player now seen as being in the twilight of his goalkeeping career , while all eyes were on the likes of Diego Castro, Gyorgy Sandor, Antony Golec and with possibly some eyes on Guyon Fernandez as well.
It was an interesting line-up, but the Mariners also had a new-look side, mostly fine-tuned from the squad that Tony Walmsley had inherited from previous coach Phil Moss in mid-season.
The retirement of captain John Hutchinson, now Walmsley’s assistant-coach, the release of some others, like Matt Simon and the signing of journeyman striker, Roy O’Donovan and some local boys on the way through, via Central Coast FC’s NPL2 side, like Jake McGing, who started, and Josh Bingham, who didn’t.
In addition, Michael Neill, who missed most of last season through injury, made the team and did well at left back, a position held last season by Josh Rose .
From left field, and fittingly playing on the left, the much-travelled Mitchell Austin looked a great find, after playing many years at a variety of English non-league pyramid clubs.
Fabio Ferreira, who was signed during last season’s transfer window from Adelaide United, and of whom much was expected, was back and now at last looking ready to produce his best again, after showing some early promise in his burgeoning Central Coast career, without being an immediate dominant force.
In this game he was certainly a stand-out, scoring twice from the penalty-spot, with great authority and running at defenders the whole game, with an obvious degree of confidence.
It must be said that the other main Mariners’ play-maker, Adrian Caceres, whose creative efforts have often been nullified by team considerations, appeared to benefit significantly from the far more open and attacking focus of this new-look Mariners outfit.
This was a very encouraging Central Coast Mariners performance and while it was against a Perth Glory side yet to find their feet after their well-documented tribulations, it was still a positive showing for home fans to enjoy.
A crowd of just over 8,000 turned up and would surely have been not only impressed, but satisfied, with the three points, which provided a vital start to the new season; but it also demonstrated that football will be much more enjoyable to watch this time around.
At least for as long as the better players stay fit, there’s no reason why the long-suffering fans shouldn’t be back in far greater numbers next time, three weeks away now, and against Sydney FC, when a bumper crowd would have been expected anyway.
The team face two difficult away matches before that derby fixture, tacking Brisbane next week and Melbourne City a week later.
This game began with Glory getting the ball in the net very early, through Fernandez, from Garcia’s low cross, but while it looked as if an offside flag that was raised had simply confirmed the obvious, once replays had been examined it quickly appeared that the visitors might have been hard done-by.
Instead, Perth soon fell behind to a Central Coast goal that had an air of pure chance about it.
Certainly new recruit, Roy O’Donovan, may claim it, as he’s entitled to, but it’s doubtful if even he knew how he’d scored it, as the initial ninth minute shot from Nick Fitzgerald, who was getting into scoring positions far more often in this match than hitherto, had tested Glory’s new keeper, Covic, with a stinging shot that bounced off the keeper and in turn O’Donovan, who was standing right in front of Covic a yard or so away from goal.
The ball landed in the net, in one movement, to much home fans’ rejoicing.
The early attacking efforts of both teams, neither showing any caution during the opening salvos, had seen the ball in the back of the net at both ends, but only one had counted.
The Mariners were missing some players, perhaps, but this is likely to be their preferred starting eleven, one might suppose, with what does still look a rather thin squad, compared to many others this season.
Storm Roux was back to his best at right-back for the Mariners and the work of Michael Neill on the left was also noted positively.
But the display of new left-winger, Mitchell Austin, was one that stood out, as he made life a misery for Perth right-back, Joshua Risdon, who looked far happier when venturing forward.
Time and again Austin got the better of Risdon and it was only towards the end that the Glory player seemed to have figured out his adversary’s attacking strengths.
Central Coast would not have been pleased at how they conceded the equaliser in the 23rd minute.
Somehow the ball, crossed from the right, in standard fashion reached Garcia on the left of the area, ten yards out, with a defender standing flat-footed in front of the Perth player who simply picked his spot with an easy, yet firm header.
The damage to Glory, though, was done mostly in the second-half, where some Perth players panicked and gave away what they would later surely describe as needlessly-gifted penalties.
When a striker comes back to defend in his own penalty-area, with the scores locked at 1-1, you have to wonder what would possess that lanky forward to try and stop the opposition’s liveliest attacking weapon, in this case Ferreira.
Yet that’s exactly what happened in the 58th minute, when Perth’s rangy Dutch recruit, Guyon Fernandez, whose job it is to find the net at the other end, brought Ferreira down in a clumsy, scything tackle, which left referee Srebre Delovski with no alternative than pointing to the spot.
In an FFA Cup game at the same venue, some weeks earlier, Roy O’Donovan had taken a penalty-kick and smashed his potentially match-winning effort against the crossbar.
This time, unsurprisingly, Ferrera stepped forward instead.
The Portuguese player showed supreme confidence and composure to slam the ball effortlessly into the top-left corner of the net to make it 2-1.
Not long after this, while chasing the game, Perth Glory conceded a second penalty, this time former Wanderers’ left back Antony Golec, the culprit.
Storm Roux was the Mariners’ player brought down this time, having been about to whip in a telling cross from the right.
Up stepped Ferreira once more and easy-as-you-please sent his penalty-kick into exactly the same spot, high in the left-hand, uppermost corner of the net.
While Glory did score a consolation goal, which, coming as it did, deep into stoppage-time, was way too late, even it might have been potentially offside, which was ironic given that their first one had been ruled out, when clearly onside, after reappraisal.
Perth looked a fair side, though Spanish midfielder, Diego Castro, stylish and skilful, will take time to adjust to the demands of the A League.
He came crashing to earth in one strong tackle and will have to expect that, though there was no sign of any ill-temper from him on this occasion, which may be a good indication of his adaptability.
He did some nice things in the game, but his distribution was poor at times and his efforts were probably too individualistic to help his team’s cause.
The skipper, Garcia, new Serbian midfielder, Nebojsa Marinkovic and Netherlands’ recruit, Fernandez, were all influential and industrious, so there’s definitely some signs of real hope for Glory there.
They have the influential Ruben Zadkovich to come back and it’s interesting that he also missed much of the early part of last season as well.
Hungarian newcomer, Georgy Sandor, scored the consolation and had a sound outing.
That desperately late goal came after the involvement of substitutes, Sidnei Sciola, who was impressive last term if appearing only irregularly and Mitchell Oxborrow, whose shot parried by Reddy, was put away by Sandor.
The welcome news for Glory came once Risdon got further forward, to greater effect and Castro, who continued to contribute, having a few attempts, sadly off target, but showing promise as the game wound down, better to assist his new team, with his silky skills and an obvious ability to get into close-range scoring positions.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, by any means, for Glory, under their new-look squad, this-time assembled, hopefully, well within the salary cap.
The Mariners may be a little thin in the ranks, if anything happens to O’Donovan, Ferreira or Caceres, so it’s perhaps premature to get too excited about their prospects.
Their game in Brisbane next weekend may be a better guide to their potential in this new season.
Glory have their first home game of the season next Sunday against Wellington Phoenix.
They might do a little better there, if they can sort out some issues with their two wide defenders and in turn provide more stability down the flanks.
Central Coast Mariners FC: 12. Liam REDDY (gk), 2. Storm ROUX, 4. Jacob POSCOLIERO (23. Eddy BOSNAR +83′), 6. Mitch AUSTIN, 7. Fabio FERREIRA , 8. Nick MONTGOMERY (c)(5. Harry ASCROFT +75′), 9. Roy O’DONOVAN, 10. Anthony CACERES, 11. Nick FITZGERALD (20. Anthony KALIK 72′), 21. Michael NEILL
Substitutes not used: 18. Glen TRIFIRO, 30. Adam PEARCE (rgk)
Yellow cards: Jacob POSCOLIERO 32′, Nick MONTGOMERY 40′
Red cards: Nil
Coach: Tony Walmsley
Perth Glory FC: 1. Ante COVIC (gk), 5. Antony GOLEC, 6. Dino DJULBIC, 7. Gyorgy SANDOR, 10. Nebojsa MARINKOVIC (16. Sidnei SCIOLA +76′)+ , 11. Richard GARCIA (c), 14. Chris HAROLD (18. Mitchell OXBORROW +65′), 17. Diego CASTRO, 19. Joshua RISDON, 20. Guyon FERNANDEZ, 23. Michael THWAITE
Substitutes not used: 30. Jordan THURTELL (rgk)
Yellow Cards: Nebojsa MARINKOVIC 45’+2
Red Cards: Nil
Coach: Kenny Lowe
Referee: Sebre Delovski 8/10
Assistant Referees – 1. Lance Greenshields , 2. Andre Giev; Fourth Official: Luke Withell
BOTN Player Points:
3. Mitch Austin (CCM)
2. Fabio Ferriera (CCM)
1. Gyorgy Sandor (PG)
Pitch rating: 8/10
Game rating: 7/10
Report by Corinthian (Paul Green) – Stats and ratings Chris Dunkerley
Photo: by Lowenna Rappo, for BOTN