“It will be two good teams going at it” Jackson ahead of Semi-Final

Central Coast Mariners Football Manager Mark Jackson expects a ‘close game’ on Friday evening as his side make the trip to Sydney FC for a blockbuster Semi-Final first leg.

Speaking in a busy press conference on Thursday morning; Jacko touched on the absence of Sydney’s star man, reflected on recent clashes with Sydney, the form of one of own star players in Mikael Doka and revealed he didn’t expect to be in a position where a potential treble is on the cards.

Returning from AFC Cup action: “The players want to play”

The Mariners’ previous two games have yielded two trophies, most recently as the team returned from Oman with the AFC Cup, only touching down back in Sydney on Tuesday evening ahead of a quick turnaround to Sydney but Jacko says the squad have ‘recovered well’ and are ‘used to it’ after a season of AFC Cup quests.

“We’re fairly used to it now so everybody recovered well. We were back in [Wednesday] afternoon. We gave the boys the morning off, then trained in the afternoon and everyone was bright and bubbly which was good to see. We’re all ready.”

“When you’re winning games and on a run it’s a good feeling. We want to play football, the players want to play games and play in big games and there are no bigger games than the one tomorrow.”

With two trophies down and one to go, Jacko says his players are ‘very very hungry’ for another.

The opportunity to win trophies and titles doesn’t come around too often in football so the players are really hungry.

Mark Jackson on our treble aims.

On Sydney FC, Lolley injury and previous meetings

“We know it’s going to be a big task against a good team but we’ve played in big games this season and we’ve had the pressure on us at certain times, we’ve proved we can deal with that.”

“They are a very go team with exceptional players. I like their style of play, what they do. I’m sure they’ll be confident but so will we.”

It will be two good teams going at it in a Finals game and hopefully we produce a good game of football for the fans, with a good outcome for us which is obviously what we want but also want a good spectacle for the A-League.”

Jackson reflected on two previous defeats against Sydney and what is required to change things this time around, naming a key player who can make a difference, who’s in line to face them for the first time this season on Friday.

“We didn’t deal with the first 20 minutes, the rest of the game we were fairly happy with when we analysed it.”

“When we played them at their place they were the better team all round. We were a little bit unbalanced in the team, missing [Jacob Farrell] but he’s back now and that gives us a lot of balance with how we play.”

They were the better team on the day, that’s it. We analyse how we play and we know what they do and where we can expose them but it’s just a case of us executing that on the night.

Ufuk Talay held no secrets in his press conference this week, revealing star player Joe Lolley will miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. Jackson confirmed an injury doubt of his own whilst praising Talay and saying Lolley’s absence is not something the Mariners are pleased with.

We like challenges, I want good players to be playing, I want to come up against good players and good managers like Sydney have with Ufuk. I don’t like to see players missing games so it’s not something we’re glad about.

Mark Jackson on Joe Lolley absence.

“We know they’re a dangerous team, they’re not a one-player team. The have a lot of good players in the team and the style of play helps. We’re focussed on what we can do but also the threat they’ll bring.”

“There’s only one doubt and that’s Di Pizio. We will give him right up until the last minute because he’s a young player who’s done really well for us, so we’ll give him today and [Friday morning] to see if he can come through that, but if he doesn’t, we have players who’ll be ready to come in and be chomping at the bit for that opportunity.”

Jackson says planning for a two-legged game is slightly different, and believes he and the players can draw on their AFC Cup experience to navigate two legs against Sydney FC.

“I hope it’s a really good spectacle for the league. When you have two good teams going up against each other you can expect a tight game.”

“With it being two-legged you have to approach the away leg in a different way potentially, then assess the result and what you need going into the second leg. We are used to that with the AFC Cup because we’ve experienced two legged game quite a bit.”

Jackson was questioned about the attributes of his team that allow them to score so many late goals, something we have seen frequently from the Mariners this season whilst substitutions have also worked a treat as of late.

“A big part of our game plan is built on out of possession and if you are good out of possession, you’re always in a game. If you don’t concede goals you always have a chance of winning. Our defensive work has been good and we have good creativity in our team so we create chances.” Jackson said.

“A big factor as well is the fitness of the guys which has been a big ask of them with the travel and amount of games but it’s credit to them as athletes and the athletic staff who work wth the team.”

“We play right untilt he end and in this day and age it isn’t a case of 92, 93 minutes, it’s pushing on to 100 minutes so we have to prepare the players to physically go that distance. The substitutions have worked really well too, the players who have come on have really impacted so we’ll be looking to utilise that again and continue with what we do.”

By winning the Premiers Plate, Jackson’s team broke the record for most losses by an eventual winner. Those four defeats at the start of Jacko’s tenure are now a mere distant memory but he says back then he didn’t envisage a situation where he could win the treble despite doubting his staff or players.

“The treble? No. I didn’t think I’d be in the treble position, I’ll be completely honest with you but I knew we could be successful. I had full belief in myself, my staff and I knew how we wanted to play. I quickly realised I had a group of players who were completely committed.” Jacko said.

“I knew I had a group o players and staff who are all in with what we wanted. You can only have success if you’re all in and we certainly have a group who are that,” he said.

Mikael Doka’s form

Doka has become one of the first names on Jacko’s teamsheet with his exceptional second-half of the season form, our Football Manager was unsurpsingly full of praise for the Brazilian.

“He’s a player who’s really grown as the season’s gone on. A lot of people say it takes time to settle when you come to Australia and that was the case, but he was one of the players we identified early doors that had great potential.” Jacko said.

“He was battling it out with Storm Roux, two fantastic right backs but as it happens in recent weeks we’ve got them both in the team because he’s shown his attacking qualities in a wider and higher position.”

He’s a great player and a great young man. He’s great to have a round the place. His English is getting better and better! He’s part of a group of players who I have to say are exceptional to work with.”

“When you don’t have a massive squad like us, flexibility and versatility in players is vital. He’s played left back, right back, left wing and right wing. That’s really important for us and every time he’s asked to play a different position he has no problem with it, and that’s the case throughout the rest of the team as well.”

You can watch Jacko’s full press conference, here.