Brilliant Mariners performance sees off Wolves after dubious red card drama


WIN Stadium on a Wednesday night was the venue for some FFA Cup football as the Wollongong Wolves hosted the Central Coast Mariners in what would become an FFA Cup classic.

The first half began in a dominant fashion to the Mariners as they created chance after chance however the match swung to the hosts’ advantage when Mark Birighitti was shown a contentious red card midway through the half and Lachlan Scott converted the spot kick to make it 1-0 to the hosts.

The match had it’s fair share of action and that continued into the second half as the Mariners fought back and won 2-1 thanks to goals from Moresche and Harry McCarthy.

Damian Tsekenis challenging for the ball with Hayden Durose in the first half

It was a highly anticipated match-up prior to the first whistle and when the match kicked off, it did not disappoint for the bumper crowd in attendance. Immediately, the Mariners took the ascendancy and were unlucky to not be ahead when Damian Tsekenis met a cross at the back post and was denied by Hayden Durose at point blank range.

The visitors gave starting debuts to Harry Steele and Moresche, and chances and corners continued to tally up for the Mariners as Ollie Bozanic went close after he saw his shot cleared off the line by Wolves bodies, and Matt Hatch was unlucky not to get the opener, meeting a low driven cross from Lewis Miller, but Durose was behind it.

Completely against the run of play, the Wolves were thrown a lifeline after Mark Birighitti was taken out from a free-kick but no foul was awarded. The ball was cleared, however a flash-point occurred behind play and amongst the mass of bodies, Birighitti was shown a dubious red by the referee upon consultation with his three officials. With no VAR in use in FFA Cup matches, the contentious decision would stand and Yaren Sozer was brought on to make his Mariners debut.

Sadly, it was no dream debut for Sozer as the penalty was dispatched by Lachlan Scott and the Mariners knew they had some work to do if they wanted to reach the last eight of the competition.

As the first half ticked down, Nick Montgomery’s men turned up the intensity and finished the half on top despite being a man short and almost went in level with Jacob Farrell narrowly missing a back post header from a Josh Nisbet corner.

Josh Nisbet again impressed in a Mariners jersey

After 15 minutes to re-fresh, the visitors came out firing and Jacob Farrell almost scored a FFA Cup classic goal when he cut inside two Wolves defenders and curled one for the top corner but it floated inches wide and the Wolves survived.

With the introduction of Marco Ureña and Cy Goddard, the Mariners looked even more deadly and almost found the equaliser when Moresche dazzled his way past two defenders and squared the ball to Marco but it didn’t fall kindly, was cleared and it almost seemed like one of those nights where the Wolves goal led a charmed life.

Finally, the breakthrough would come from the always industrious Josh Nisbet who played it wide for Cy Goddard. Goddard found Nisbet’s back post run and his header across goal was dummied by Ureña and fired home by Brazilian Moresche. It was no more than the ten men deserved but they were hungry for more.

Moresche gets his first Mariners goal

Minutes later, Marco rounded Wolves keeper Durose and as the ball trickled to goal, it evaded Moresche and the back-rushing Wolves defenders and somehow didn’t cross the line to the surprise of everyone in attendance.

After Cy Goddard tested Dunrose from distance and was spectacularly denied, an unlikely hero would head home the winner from the resulting corner.

Goddard’s ball in was a beauty and Academy Graduate Harry McCarthy, on the pitch for three minutes, rose highest and looped his header into the net and sent the small group of travelling Yellow Army fans into joyful celebration. He was surrounded by his fellow team-mates who know how hard he has worked for this chance at professional football.

Harry McCarthy with his first goal on his professional debut

The gloss was almost put on the performance with a second for Harry McCarthy but he was brought down by Darcy Madden when through on goal and both teams finished the match with ten men.

In the closing stages, Ollie Bozanic would go close with a free-kick off the crossbar and Marco would fire inches wide but a professional come-back performance was secured with a 2-1 victory in front of a boisterous 2,000 plus Wollongong crowd, when the winning margin could easily have been widened.

A place in the quarter final awaits with the draw to be made in the coming days and for the first time in the 2021 edition of the cup, the draw will not be regionalised.

Wollongong Wolves 1

2 Central Coast Mariners

23′ Scott

64′ Moresche, 81′ McCarthy