The Central Coast Mariners’ National Youth League campaign has ended in heartbreak, the minor premiers falling short of an historic Grand Final appearance at the final hurdle, after going down 3-1 to Gold Coast United in their sudden death semi-final at Pluim Park, Lisarow.
The Central Coast Mariners- National Youth League campaign has ended in heartbreak, the minor premiers falling short of an historic Grand Final appearance at the final hurdle, after going down 3-1 to Gold Coast United in their sudden death semi-final at Pluim Park, Lisarow.
The young Mariners couldn-t recover from a horror start which saw them down 2-nil after three minutes, and ultimately goals from Benjamin Wearing, Ben Halloran and Chris Harold were easily enough to counter the lone strike from Panny Nikas and catapult Gold Coast United into the NYL decider.
The feeling around the camp was a mixture of disappointment and pride as the players and coach tried to come to terms with the end of their season.
“My feelings are of disappointment that the players won-t get to experience the big game next week after a stellar season,” said Mariners NYL head coach Tony Walmsley.
“My thoughts about the game were that we were very much in it, but you can-t give a team like the Gold Coast a two goal start and expect to win many games against them.
“At 2-1 we felt if we nicked a second goal we could-ve gone on with it. The longer the game went on we felt they were feeling stressed when we were in possession.
“We started slowly. It was a ridiculous scenario, we should-ve cleared our lines better for both of those goals. Aside from that we were outmuscled in the first fifteen minutes and it took us a while to get to grips with that tempo,” Walmsley said.
Shortly before kick-off ominous clouds were circling, sending the blue and yellow diehards scurrying for shelter in the sudden downpour. It was perhaps a premonition of things to come for the Central Coast Mariners.
Thirty seconds into the match the Gold Coast won a corner after the Mariners felt a safer option was to put the ball out of play. They were left to rue that decision when a perfectly weighted corner from Gold Coast skipper Steven Lustica found an unmarked Benjamin Wearing on the far post. Wearing had no difficulty steering the ball into the net and the Gold Coast began to celebrate their good fortune.
Things were about to get a whole lot worse for the Mariners when the visiting side found themselves in their half just three minutes later. Ben Halloran at the edge of the box felt obliged to attempt a shot to test Mariners custodian Mathew Ryan. Ryan showing great positional sense for his tender years had the shot well and truly covered. What he was not anticipating was the deflection that sent the ball viciously spinning the other way. It was a wrong-un that even Shane Warne would be proud of but all the Young Mariners could do was look at the scoreboard in bewilderment.
Fortunately for the fans who braved the weather the rain did eventually stop. As it did so the Young Mariners play lifted accordingly as they tried desperately to fight their way back into the match.
Mitchell Mallia and Nick Fitzgerald pushed forward as they have done all campaign. Matthew Lewis and Brady Smith provided admirable support with Bernie Ibini-Isei getting into good positions but being well contained by the Gold Coast defence.
The combination of Mallia and Ibini-Isei almost produced a spectacular goal in the 23rd minute. Mallia was able to cut inside his marker with electrifying pace that defied the heavy conditions and fire a bullet like cross to the supporting Ibini-Isei. He connected with the ball but was unable to guide it inside the near post.
The Mariners thought they had pulled a goal back when they were awarded a free kick in a dangerous attacking position three minutes later, but the effort went to waste as it cluttered off the bar.
On the half hour mark Panny Nikas went on one of those probing runs that he so enjoys. With brute strength he was able to ride the challenge of Gold Coast defender Zac Anderson and continue on his merry way into the penalty box. Anderson was determined not to let Nikas best him and went in for a second effort. It was this second effort that referee Stuart Wolfe deemed unnecessarily reckless and awarded a penalty to the Mariners skipper.
Nikas stepped up as he has so often this campaign and by his own lofty standards took a fairly ordinarily penalty. Gold Coast ‘keeper Jerrad Tyson was able to get down to it, but the ball had just enough momentum to sneak under his outstretched arm. It was a wonderful display of poise under pressure from the young skipper.
The Mariners nearly capitalised on the frustration of the Gold Coast side with only a brilliant reflex save by Tyson denying Matthew Lewis heading home the equaliser.
In the second half both sides seemed intent on playing an attacking game of football. Although as the battle of the midfield intensified scoring chances were few and far between. Indeed both sides were forced to shoot from distance and were unable to really trouble either custodian.
There was plenty of passion from both teams with some fairly physical challenges as the Mariners fought to chase the game, and the Gold Coast fought to defend it. With a place in the grand final at stake neither side was willing to back down.
The introduction of Mitchell Duke provided some spark for the Mariners attack. Duke kept probing in an effort to get behind the Gold Coast defence and almost succeeded in the 62nd minute. Duke got possession about 35 yards out and with his back to the Gold Coast goal. With a subtle touch he was able to spin his way past his marker and accelerate away before launching a shot that sailed off target.
It was left to Chris Harold from the Gold Coast to put the match beyond doubt and end any thoughts of a famous Mariners comeback. Harold has been a constant thorn for the Mariners defence this campaign and he proved it again today netting his fourth goal from four starts against the club.
Harold received the ball with only one defender to beat which he did with ease. To complete the goal he audaciously chipped over the head of Mathew Ryan who watched on helplessly.
To their credit the Mariners continued to push forward in search of late goals, the team that were premiers weren-t going to die wondering.
Time eventually beat them and though they lost, they can go out with their heads held high.
“The guys have a lot of character and the Gold Coast play a good technical game.
“We didn-t back down and if anything we played better this week and still ended up on the wrong side of a 3-1 scoreline.
“It-s been a privilege for me to be in charge of this group for this season. We can only aim to improve further and go into next season full of confidence as one of the teams to beat,” said Walmsley.
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK), 2. Scott MCGLINEY (6. Mitchell DUKE 56-), 3. Jerry KALOURIS, 4. Matthew LIDDALL, 8. Nick FITZGERALD (9. Gavin FORBES 69-), 10. Panny NIKAS, (c) 11. Mitchell MALLIA, 14. Brady SMITH, 15. Adam ORMSBY (12. David VRANKOVIC 89-), 17. Matthew LEWIS, 18. Bernie IBINI-ISEI
Unused Subs 20. Nik MATIC (GK).
Yellow Cards Liddall 25-, McGliney 40-, Smith 72-, Mallia 90+3-
Red Cards None
Goals Nikas 30- (pen)
Gold Coast United: 1. Jerrad TYSON, 2. Steven TOPALOVIC, 3. James BROWN, 5. Ben WEARING, 7. Zac ANDERSON (4. Callum HARE 79-), 8. Steven LUSTICA (c), 9. Chris HAROLD (15. Rueben WAY 85-), 10. Koh SATAKE, 11. Ben HALLORAN (6. Mitchell BEVAN 89-), 12. Tahj MINNIECON, 14. Josh BRILLANTE.
Unused Subs 20. Tim Anderson (GK).
Yellow Cards Brown 7-, Topalovic 33-, Anderson 48-, Halloran 69-
Red Cards None
Goals Wearing 1-, Halloran 4-, Harold 83-
Referee Stuart WOLFE