Jacko hails Mariners courage but insists we’re ‘far from’ Home Grand Final

Mark Jackson hailed his players’ physical output and courage after a tremendous away performance against Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium, just three days after landing in the country after AFC Cup success in Oman.

Goals less than 10 minutes apart, either side of half time, from Josh Nisbet and Mikael Doka saw the Mariners recover from 1-0 down to take a crucial lead into our home semi-final second leg.

Sydney FC finished with nine men after Jack Rodwell and Corey Hollman were both shown second half red cards, in an entertaining and eventful semi-final first leg which Jackson described as ‘two competitive teams going toe-to-toe.’

More of the same is expected in the second-leg. Next Saturday at Our Paradise is not one to miss.

FULL MATCH REPORT: Mariners fightback to bring important lead back to home second leg

Many had Sydney down as the favourites for at least the first leg, with the home advantage and the Mariners’ short turnaround. The Sky Blues have also been the only team to beat Jackson’s side since November.

Jackson has seen this sort of defiance and effort to overcome such challenges all season now but is refusing to let a ‘phenomenal’ effort from his squad be normalised.

“These player have been doing this for a while now, but I’m not going to get used to it because it’s phenomenal what the players are doing from a physical point of view. I’m really pleased with that, with the performance and the courage they showed on the pitch tonight.” Jackson said, in his post-match press conference at Allianz.

“[Sydney] defended well, it’s not always easy when teams go down to 10 or 9 men, they sit behind the ball and we have to break them down. We tried to do that and they were still dangerous from set plays and on the counter attack.”

“I’m proud of the boys and their effort but we know it’s not over yet. We know we’ve got another leg and we know Sydney will bring their game again and it will be a really tough challenge.” Jacko said, already looking ahead to next week’s second leg.

“I thought we started the game really well, we showed courage to play through their press and we created a coupe of chances. I actually felt maybe their goal came a bit against the run of play, I might be a bit harsh saying that but I felt that at the time. They had a bit of pressure after that for 5-10 minutes, then we got back into the game and we got the goal at a crucial time right at the end [of the half].”

“That changed my thought process going into half time because we were going to do something different, but we kept it the same and just tweaked a couple of things and we came out and got the second goal.”

“It was two good teams, two competitive teams going toe-to-toe, they’re the kind of games we like.”

Mark Jackson on Sydney FC Semi-Final first leg.

“They’re a good team and they’ve beaten a lot of good teams this year. They have got a great way of playing, a good manager, good coaching staff, they’re well drilled and we knew we were going to come up against it.” Jacko said.

The next game is going to be even harder for us because they are going to bring it, that’s the type of team they are. We’ll be ready for that and we have a few more days than we’re used to going into the game.”

“These players thrive on continuity, doing the right things and the same things and working hard, we’re not going to change that.”

There was a terrific showing of yellow on a wet Friday night in Sydney, contributing to a crowd of just over 13,000 inside Allianz. Jacko says he ‘can’t thank the fans enough’ for their support and is already looking forward to seeing our supporters out in full force at Our Paradise next week.

The fans have been fantastic, they were fantastic tonight and I’m sure they’ll bring the noise when we’re back at our place next week. I can’t thank them enough, the way they have supported the team and the club and they continue to do that. What we try to do is work hard for them on the pitch, give everything for the shirt and I think they appreciate that.”

“We’ll work hard. The boys will have a couple of days off, they deserve that. We’ll have a five day lead in and we’ll work hard.” Jackson explained.

Earlier this week, we were able to announce alongside the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) that should we progress to the 2024 Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final, it will be hosted at Industree Group Stadium for the first time.

Jackson, like everyone at the club, is delighted at the news but insists we are ‘far from’ there yet, with a ‘tough, tough battle’ still in our way next week.

“I’m delighted that the club have worked hard to get that fixture, but we’re not there yet. Far from it. It’s just one game away but Sydney are a formidable and dangerous team and people say ‘be weary of the wounded animal‘, we’ve got to be prepared for what they’re going to bring.”

“We’ll do our homework, prepare the players physically and we’ll be ready. We expect a tough, tough battle.”