Central Coast Mariners remain unbeaten in their 2011/12 Hyundai A-League pre-season campaign following a 1-nil victory over Illawarra Premier League Champions Dandaloo FC.
In the second game of phase three of their preparations for the season proper, the Yellow and Navy put together a solid display on a bumpy surface in Cringila, near Wollongong.
The triumph extends the Mariners’ winning run to seven friendly matches, including an historic victory over Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic in the clubs’ first ever international friendly in early July.
Nevertheless Central Coast could, and perhaps should have been behind in the opening minute of play without having touched the ball. Dandaloo – clearly eager to test themselves against Hyundai A-League opposition – broke immediately from the kick-off, with only a miscued finish preventing the Mariners from going a goal down after less than 30 seconds.
Having started on the back foot, the Mariners began to work their way into the match and created their first real opportunity of the encounter after 15 minutes. Neat interplay down the right side involving Brad Porter, Pedj Bojic and Michael Baird ended with Michael McGlinchey firing an arching left footed drive just over the Dandaloo goal.
A minute later the Mariners went close again. With Bojic swinging an inch-perfect cross in from wide on the right, Baird did well to evade his marker, however his headed effort sailed centimetres over the bar.
It took the Yellow and Navy another ten minutes to craft a clear-cut opportunity to break the deadlock, however when they did the chances came thick and fast. Within the space of three minutes Baird struck the woodwork twice, while Matt Simon sent a crisp, low drive just wide of Mitchell Blowes’ right post.
Soon after, however, the Mariners would get the reward their dominance ultimately deserved. With Baird firing in an accurate pass from the left side, Simon controlled the ball before sending a powerful right footed shot past Blowes.
Intent on giving as many players crucial game time in the lead up to round one as possible, Mariners boss Graham Arnold made two changes at the break, introducing Qantas Olyroos captain Oliver Bozanic and captain Alex Wilkinson in place of Rostyn Griffiths and Brad Porter respectively.
But it was goalscorer Simon who came closest to adding to the scoreline immediately after halftime. Bursting through the centre, Simon again fired low to the right of Blowes, but while he beat the ‘keeper, the attackers’ shot also evaded the goal.
As in previous practice matches, Arnold again rotated his bench in the second 45, keen to experiment with different players in varying roles as well as add minutes to the legs of his chargers. For the second time in a week, youngster Kwabena Appiah-Kubi earned a chance from the pine, while Brad McDonald and Sam Gallagher also saw game time.
Dandaloo, boasting former Hyundai A-League players Noel Spencer and Alvin Ceccoli, as well as NYL player Sam Munro – all of whom have played for the Mariners – proved stiff resistance in the second half. Particularly, it was goalkeeper Blowes who made an impression, thwarting goal-bound efforts from Baird and Troy Hearfield as the match wound down.
After the game, Arnold was pleased with the hit-out against “a very good side”.
“The scoreline probably flattered them as we had a lot more chances than they did, however either poor finishing or good goalkeeping combined with a patchy surface made it difficult,” Arnold said.
“I was delighted with our defensive performance. We restricted Dandaloo to probably one chance in the first minute.
“Even on a very poor surface, our football and combinations are coming together very well and we’re looking forward to the next four games before our first competition match against Brisbane,” he said.
The Mariners’ next hit-out is on Wednesday evening against Northern NSW State League side Lake Macquarie Roosters at Macquarie Field, Speers Point.
The Yellow and Navy will then take on Perth Glory at Knox Grammar School, Sydney, on Sunday 18 September in their first pre-season clash against Hyundai A-League opposition.
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Simon 33’)
Dandaloo FC 0
Stadium: John Crehan Park, Cringila
Referee: Matt Cropper
Assistant Referees: Alex Glasgow, Grant South