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Jan 23, 2022   |  8:08PM AET

COVID impacted Mariners fall to first home defeat of season

COVID impacted Mariners fall to first home defeat of season

A warm Sunday afternoon saw football return to Central Coast Stadium after a short hiatus due to a couple of re-scheduled fixtures. Nick Montgomery’s men entered the weekend on a high after progressing into the FFA Cup final earlier in the week with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sydney FC. The focus, now shifted back to the Isuzu UTE A-League, and today’s opponent – Patrick Kisnorbo’s Melbourne City.

After a tight opening, City would find the lead through Jamie Maclaren but were pegged back by Marco Urena’s late first half equaliser. In the second half despite some good possession from the hosts, City would find a second following a defensive lapse and add a third late on after a scramble in the area left Carl Jenkinson with the perfect opportunity to tap home un-opposed.

The Sunday afternoon match in Gosford saw the inclusion of two Isuzu UTE A-League debutants in James Bayliss and Cameron Windust – alongside a youthful line-up in the absence of Joshua Nisbet, Nicolai Muller, Lewis Miller, Daniel Hall and Garang Kuol due to illness.

The early possession fell the way of City, with the early sparring highlighting once again the quality of newly-announced Socceroo Kye Rowles – resolute as ever, alongside young gun Jacob Farrell who was required to snuff out a few of Melbourne City’s early forays into the Mariners half.

In the 8th minute Marco Ureña would spray a brilliant cross-field ball into the path of Cy Goddard down the right flank, who took on a couple of defenders before winning a corner.

The Mariners defence was required to stand tall in the first stanza, with Melbourne City having their fair share of corners early in the game – with the Mariners winning the ball in the air and looking to counter.

The pace and trickery of Moresche and Ureña up front, drew fouls out of the City back-line who were eager to try and stop the pair before they could build on their already-flourishing connection in the Mariners forward line.

It was to be Melbourne City who would break the deadlock in the 17th minute after a world-class, point-blank save from Mark Birighitti, the ball fell to the feet of Jamie Mclaren who was on hand to tap-in from close range and put City one-to-the-good.

The Mariners reacted well to conceding. They continued to push forward on the counter with Béni Nkololo coming close, sending the ball crashing into the wrong side of the net – halting cheers by the Mariners faithful who were deceived by the angle of the Western Grandstand in believing the ball snuck in at the near post.

Mariners main-man, Marco Ureña continued to become more involved as the game entered the latter stages of half and in the 41st minute he would find the equaliser with a goal of his own doing.

Marco would expertly create space for himself on the edge of the box and whip a brilliant left-footed curling effort that nestled into the bottom left corner, past Tom Glover in the City goal – pulling the Mariners back level just before half-time.

The second half saw the Mariners come out strong, testing Tom Glover early after strong midfield play from Max Balard, who threaded the ball into the path of Marco Ureña, who then found an unmarked Moresche with a brilliant no-look pass however, City’s onrushing goalkeeper smothered the ball just in time and the scores remained level.

The 56th minute would see Melbourne City take back the lead with a lofted ball to the back post where Andrew Nabbout was on hand to volley past Birighitti – an uncharacteristic lapse in the ever-consistent Mariners back-line.

Nick Montgomery looked to inject some fresh legs into the match and in the 60th minute introduced Matt Hatch, Harry McCarthy, and young defender Cameron Windust who came on for his A-League debut.

The three substitutes made an impact immediately with Windust picking up the ball in defence and looking to get the Mariners onto the break early – releasing Matt Hatch’s pace down the left flank several times in only a few minutes.

Mark Birighitti was called upon again after a corner was deflected to the edge of the box where Aidan O’Neill connected with a rocket of a half-volley however Birighitti flew through the air to deny City their two-goal lead and in the process made one of the saves of the season.

However, Melbourne City would add to their lead before the end of the match – a corner floated in, and after a scrap in the box City’s new man Carl Jenkinson bundled the ball over the line to put the game beyond reach for the Mariners after there was a shout for handball in the buildup.

A valiant defensive effort, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be Mariners’ night in the end.

The focus now shifts to next week against Sydney FC at Leichhardt Oval.