Brandtman bags as Mariners Academy get off the mark in NPL

It was sweet, sweet victory for Central Coast Mariners as they came from behind to secure their first victory of the 2024 National Premier League NSW Men’s season, capturing a 5-3 win at home against Hills United FC on Sunday afternoon.

By Mitchell Roese, Football NSW

The home side were able to abolish a 2-1 half time deficit, scoring four in the second as they deterred a late fightback from the visitors to claim three points.

Miscommunication from Hills United’s backline nearly handed the Mariners the opener, Luka Smyth’s volley narrowly deflected away by United’s skipper Glen Kelshaw.

But it would be the visitors who took the lead when Sunday Yona found Anthony Frangie who rocketed it home.

It was Smyth who sparked a response from the Mariners, he came so close to an equaliser with a strike from range that crashed off the crossbar.

The equaliser came though from a corner kick, Lucas Scicluna’s lofty ball into the box rebounded to a vacant Bailey Brandtman who volleyed home, in his first match back from A-League duties.

Despite Lucas Vilela’s side getting on top in the game after equalising, it was Hills who went into half time 2-1 up after Caleb Jackson-Brown’s finish from the edge-of-the-box late in the half.

It could have been worse for the Mariners had it not been for 17-year-old goalkeeper Dylan Peraic-Cullen. He used his well-over six-foot frame to produce two incredible saves, none more so than from a rocketing half volley inside the box from Yu Okubo.

The Mariners found another equaliser early in the second half. Brandtman turning provider as he went on a weaving run before laying the ball off to Matej Busek who drilled home from just outside the box.

The game then really sparked into life as the Mariners then took the lead from the penalty spot, Smyth converting to make it 3-2 after Donatien Niyonkuru was simply too quick for the Hills defence and drew a foul in the box.

Just three minutes later, the Mariners were two goals ahead as Taye Hedley took full advantage of a loose pass before slotting home.

Okubo brought it back to a goal difference with a smartly taken goal, making it 4-3 on 89 minutes and setting up a potentially nervy finish.

It wouldn’t be though for the Mariners as they restored the two goal advantage and sealed the win, Brandtman and Smyth combining to good effect again, catching Hills lacking for with a quick free-kick and Smyth finished confidently to make it 5-3.

After falling behind in all three matches this season, Central Coast Mariners Academy head coach Vilela was proud of the resilience his young squad has shown throughout.

“The boys deserve it with the work they put in despite not getting the results in the last games. We know we’re going to make mistakes but if the boys can continue to trust their teammates, then the results will come as it did today,” said Vilela.

Vilela also commented on the impact youngster Bailey Brandtman has within his side, his talents and experience at A-League level certainly not going to waste.

“You can just see the impact he has on the field and in the change rooms, always bringing a positive attitude and playing a hand in scoring goals or assisting.”

“I’m lucky to have a player like him and I believe he will have a great career.”

Central Coast Mariners: 40. Dylan Peraic-Cullen (GK), 2. Michael Paragilli, 3. Cher Dong, 4. Andre Parkes (33. Alexander Gountounas 46’) 7. Matej Busek (13. Yani Nassis 60’), 8. Lucas Scicluna, 10. Luka Smyth, 11. Donatien Niyonkuru (9. Jordan Small 83’), 16. Prayaag Thapa (12. Taye Hedley ’41), 25. Ben Mewett (15. Amponsah Antwi 60’), 27. Bailey Brandtman.

Unused Subs: 30. Daniel Vickers.