Mariners click against Melbourne after lean spell

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 14
5pm, Sunday 4th January 2015 – Central Coast Football Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast FC 2 (Mitchell Duke 12′ 27′)
Melbourne City FC 0


After a long, lean spell, things finally clicked into place for the highly-regarded Central Coast Mariners last Sunday at Central Coast Stadium, when they took on the much-improved Melbourne City side.

Having had only three days’ rest since fashioning a courageous 0-0 draw at Parramatta Stadium against the Western Sydney Wanderers, a team whose points-tally to date belies their true abilities, many were expecting the Mariners to have little left in terms of energy and resolve for their return to action on such a short turnaround.

Melbourne City must have felt that way, too, having easily beaten Newcastle some five days earlier, whacking the Jets 5-2 up in Newcastle, with their high profile signing Robert Koren grabbing a hat-trick in his first start for the visitors, after only two previous outings off the bench.

Koren was expected to feature prominently against the Mariners too and City were required to make few changes to their line-up and only had late injury victim, Connor Chapman, pulling out before the game, plus the enforced absence of Joseph Melling through suspension that could be said to hamper their team’s selection process.

Koren was getting fitter and Damien Duff, another star against the Jets, was beginning to look a useful investment, as was play-maker Aaron Mooy, a sometime-Socceroo, who was left out of the national coach’s Asian Cup squad, much to the relief of City tactician, John Van’t Schip.

But nobody had told the Mariners that City would hold all the aces, as even without the exhausted Matt Simon, the home side were able to cover for Simon and other longer-term absentees more than adequately, emphasising the depth in coach Phil Moss’s squad.

Unlike the previous home game where the locals had drawn 3-3 with Brisbane Roar, in exciting style in front of a 10,000 plus crowd, after a week-long publicity drive, this second game over the holiday period was not as well-attended, attracting only just over 7,400 fans.

But those who decided they’d liked what they’d seen against the Roar and also appreciated the efforts of their true battlers at Parramatta Stadium, were abundantly rewarded, as the Mariners romped to a handsome 2-0 win, well in control of the game even before the unexpected 60th minute departure of City keeper, Tando Velaphi, for a major foul on Mitchell Duke, who was the Central Coast’s main hero on the day.

Duke had been showing up well off the bench in some recent games, looking not only lively and committed, but full of creative running and enterprise, so having started at Parramatta Stadium and having looked the goods there, it was a given that he’d be the main man up front this time, with the forced absence of the all-action Matt Simon.

Phil Moss made a few changes, to freshen things up, after the rigours of the Wanderers’ match and he certainly got those few tweaks right, as everything went like clockwork.

In came Richard Vernes and Glen Trifiro, the latter having shown up especially well against the  Wanderers, off the bench.

Vernes hadn’t featured much lately, but put in a good shift early in this game, before making way for the hard-running Nick Fitzgerald after 52 minutes.

Vernes was involved in most of the attacking moves in the first half and Trifiro was also a stand-out along with Isaka Cernak, who was given a standing ovation when replaced at the 82 minute mark, with his new job already well done.

Also having a breather, apart from Fitzgerald, was midfielder Matt Sim and he too, looked full of running once he came on for those final eight minutes.

Before that, however, the club’s latest signing, Travis Major, a typically robust NSW Premier League target man, signed from Blacktown City, after training with the Mariners for a number of weeks, came on for Duke, who had been beaten black and blue, when clashing with the City keeper, Velaphi, and needed to be immediately replaced after an hour.

Major got going right away and should prove a useful addition to the squad, his running and crossing only part of his armoury, as he has scored numerous goals in the NSW competition.

“I was very pleased with Travis Major,” said Moss, after the game.

“He looked like he fitted in right away and the way he put someone as good as (City defender) Patrick Kisnorbo on his knees shows his quality. He put in a good cross or two and he’s going to be a real asset for us.

The game began with the Mariners looking very positive and the creative work of Trifiro, Cernak and Vernes had the ever-reliable Anthony Caceres and Duke looking good prospects to trouble the experienced Melbourne defence.

While Velaphi looked mostly composed and Kisnorbo and fellow defender, Robbie Wielaert, seemed to have things under control they probably underestimated the desire of Duke and the effectiveness of his midfield support act, Trifiro and Cernak in particular.

Trifiro and Vernes combined well down the left in only the second minute and the latter, well-placed to have a shot inside the six yard area and perhaps a little rusty from playing so infrequently of late, dwelt a little too long on the ball, allowing the defence to wrest possession from him in the danger zone.

But City had been served some serious notice.

After a series of corners had been won by the Mariners and City had dealt with them, Trifiro managed to work his magic in the 12th minute.

His threaded pass for the hard-running Duke was grasped with glee by the local striker, whose finish was as cool and composed as anyone could have wished for.

The home crowd behind the goal erupted and the band struck up a familiar tune.

That set the tone, immediately, with the Mariners already looking like a team that had the self-belief to go on with the job, as it had been so long since they’d won at home they’d almost forgotten how they’d beaten Newcastle oh-so-long ago in their opening home game of the season, with a very late winner in the 1-0 result that day.

Central Coast continued to dominate after scoring first and it was City who looked sluggish, rather than the Mariners.

“We expected them to be tired, but it’s amazing how much energy players can find once they score an early goal,” reflected City coach, Van’t Schip, post-match.

“They drew strength from that and we were quite flat,” he admitted.

“We had no answers today.

After the Mariners continued their assault, with Duke and co holding sway, the signs were promising that the long-awaited second win of the season might indeed happen.

Duke got through in the 19th, but his fierce volley hit the side-netting, with Melbourne surviving yet another attack.

But the second goal which came in the 27th was even better than the first.

Joshua Rose got down the left flank, with his usual industry, after being found by captain and driving-force John Hutchinson, who’s in good touch at the moment.

The cross from Rose was laid off nicely by Vernes, from inside the penalty area, for Duke to slam the ball home from 15 yards and beat Velaphi all hands up.

A shot from Caceres was blocked in the 36th, after a nice nod on from Duke, though late in the first- half the Mariners came under some pressure, with City’s Koren and Duff both quite dangerous and looking likely to reduce the arrears.

It was left to goalkeeper Liam Reddy to ensure that the visitors went to the sheds without scoring, as the big man got up brilliantly to tip over Koren’s effort in the 38th and then saved again in the 42nd from the same player, who is really showing his worth now.

Mooy and Koren combined again in the dying stages of the half, setting up Mate Dugandzic, whose point-blank shot was beaten away by Reddy once again. Reddy had indeed finished the first-half in some style.

After the break the turning point for City came after an attack around the 58 minute mark broke down and Duke had set sail for goal from half-way, with no defenders in sight and the keeper, Velaphi, forced to come well outside his area to try and take on Duke with his feet.

He got it horribly wrong and clattered into Duke, earning an instant red card from referee, Peter Green, who had little difficulty in making that decision.

“You saw it for yourselves,” acknowledged Van’t Schip, later.

“There was nothing we could say about that. We took off Koren, so we could bring on our reserve keeper (former Mariner Andrew Redmayne) so it became very difficult for us after that.

Van’t Schip also made one defensive change at half-time, taking the somewhat tentative Ross Archibald off and replacing him with Jonatan Germano.

But those likely game changing moves were all thrown into disarray with the dismissal of Velaphi, who will now miss two matches.

If there was a light at the end of the tunnel for Melbourne City, it was that Redmayne made a number of excellent saves and should prove a reliable replacement keeper when the league programme resumes in a few weeks’ time.

For the Mariners they can now work on getting back into shape for their own return to action too.

“Mitchell Duke has a ‘cork’ from his thigh to his ankle and he’s going to take some time to get over it,” said Moss.

“But he should be right for the next game. I’m giving the players a week off and they fully deserve it,” was his parting shot.

Match details

Crowd:  (official) 7,409

Central Coast Mariners FC:  12. Liam REDDY (gk); 4. Jacob POSCOLIERO, 5. Zac ANDERSON, 25. Eddy BOSNAR, 3. Joshua ROSE; 7 John HUTCHINSON (c), 23. Isaka CERNAK (15. Matthew SIM +82′), 17. Richard VERNES (11. Nick FITZGERALD +52′); 10. Adrian CACERES; 18. Glen TRIFIRO, 9. Mitchell DUKE (14. Travis MAJOR +60′)
Subs Not Used: RGK 1 Matthew Nash, 2 Storm ROUX

Red Cards: Nil
Yellow Cards: Jacob Poscoliero 31′

Melbourne City FC:  20.Tando VELAPHI (gk1) (RC); 27 Ross ARCHIBALD (13 Jonatan GERMANO 46),  24.Patrick KISNORBO (C); 3.Robbie WIELAERT, 19.Benjamin GARUCCIO, 5.Erik PAARTALU; 6.Aaron MOOY,  10.Robert KOREN (1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk2) 60′);  11.Damien DUFF, 23.Mate DUGANDZIC (14.James BROWN 53), 15.David WILLIAMS,
Subs Not Used: 7. Iain RAMSAY, 18. Paulo RETRE

Red cards: 20. Tando Velaphi 60′
Yellow Cards: James Brown 72

Points and ratings

Player points:
3.  Mitchell Duke (CCM)
2. Glen Trifiro (CCM)
1. Patrick Kisnorbo (MC)

Match 8/10
Pitch 8/10

Referee: Peter Green 6/10

Photo: Lowenna Rappo