The Central Coast Mariners travelled to Brisbane on Tuesday night for a meeting with the Roar in the Isuzu UTE A-League knowing that three points would seal them finals football for the second consecutive season.
The match started very cagey, but the visitors found the lead through Lewis Miller’s first A-League goal when he nodded in a Cy Goddard cross at the back post.
In the second half, the Mariners absorbed pressure and would find a second through super-sub Garang Kuol who came off the bench for his third goal in as many games.
Mark Birighitti led from the back and sealed the three points with an impressive performance demonstrating his qualities as one of the best goalkeepers in the league.
Nick Montgomery made one change from Saturday’s win against Western United with Cy Goddard coming in for Nicolai Müller on the wing and Marco Ureña missing out with a slight knock.
The opening moments of the encounter between the two sides was very cagey with both teams struggling to get in behind and create chances, the best from the opening 30 came from Josh Nisbet who lofted a ball in behind the defence, but Jason Cummings was unable to get onto the ball and Holmes cleared away from danger.
Brisbane Roar would draw the first save from either keeper when Kye Rowles attempted clearance struck Josh Nisbet and the ball fell to Alex Parsons on the edge of the box. His fierce drive drew a decent save from Mark Birighitti in the Mariners net who palmed the ball wide and away from danger.
Looking out of the contest, the Mariners showed that they are deadly in attack as they flexed their muscles with a goal from their first attempt on target of the half. Cy Goddard turned swiftly on the left and saw a late arriving Lewis Miller at the back post. His cross was perfect for the right back as he powered his header into the ground and into the back of the net for his first Isuzu UTE A-League goal in 52 matches and the Central Coast Mariners 600th in their A-League history.
The Mariners entered the half ahead and looked to continue their good run of form of late as they hunted their 4th consecutive win, a feat not achieved since 2013.
With Mark Birighitti producing more exceptional work at the back to deny Brisbane from point blank range, it would be the triple sub from Nick Montgomery that linked to find the Mariners their second.
Garang Kuol aged just 17 has been a revelation this season off the bench and he linked with the overlapping substitute Storm Roux on the right. Kuol continued his run into the box and was found by the New Zealand international and Garang slotted the ball into the far corner, setting social media alight at the talent he possesses.
The Mariners this season have found a centre-back pairing in Kye Rowles and Dan Hall that have proven difficult to break down and tonight both played another of their finest games, blocking shots, intercepting passes, and setting up attacks.
Mark Birighitti would be called into action again, but he was determined to keep the sheet clean as he threw up a strong right hand, reacting quickly to the snapshot from inside the area, denying the Roar forward line once more.
The only concern for Nick Montgomery’s side was the injury to Dan Hall as he awkwardly landed on his knee and appeared in visible pain. He was forced off and with the Mariners having used all five subs, had to play the remainder with ten men.
Holding strong at the back, both sides finished the match with ten men after Scott Neville challenged for the ball against Nicolai Müller and missing the ball, connected with the German’s ankle instead in a studs-up challenge. Initially referee Tim Danaskos brandished a yellow but following an on-field review, upgraded the card to a red which will see Neville miss their final match of the season.
As the match eased to a conclusion, Jason Cummings would have the final chance of the evening, however his curling effort would sail wide of the upright.
As the full-time whistle blew, the team from Central Coast celebrated another massive three points. Three points that cement their position in finals, when not many gave them a chance of making it off the foot of the table. It was the first time in the Mariners’ history that they had won back-to-back matches against the Roar and the first time in 11 matches that they have found victory in Queensland.
The regular season will conclude for the Yellow and Navy with a home match against the Jets this Saturday at Central Coast Stadium as they will be looking to take home all three points in the third F3 Derby of the season. The highest position the Mariners can now reach is 4th which would require Western United and Adelaide United to draw or Western to win, and the Mariners to defeat the Jets on Saturday evening.