Saturday evening saw the Mariners return to Central Coast Stadium in the Isuzu UTE A-League after a few weeks on the road, in a must-win game against a struggling Brisbane Roar side. Nick Montgomery’s men looked to pick up all three-points and hopefully begin an ascendancy up the table.
Beni Nkololo’s third goal in as many games and Nicolai Müller’s first in the Yellow and Navy handed Mariners a welcome three-points. A second-half header from Lescano wasn’t enough for Brisbane, as the Roar still find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Isuzu UTE A-League.
Nick Montgomery named a similar starting eleven for the Saturday afternoon clash against Brisbane Roar with Lewis Miller missing out due to illness and Ruon Tongyik coming back in for the start with Mark Birighitti in goal for his 150th A-League match.
For a large portion of the first half the Mariners found themselves with majority of possession, with Brisbane Roar sitting back and absorbing the pressure but import Jason Cummings tested his luck from range with a curling effort but Jordan Holmes in the Brisbane goal palmed away to safety.
Marco Ureña and Nicolai Müller started the chances early on, linking up well with the inform Frenchman Béni Nkololo.
In the 12th minute, an early chance fell to Nkololo after a brilliant cross from youngster Jacob Farrell, but Brisbane was able to scramble the ball away.
The best chance of the half would fall to Jason Cummings after a marauding run down the right flank from Nkololo ended in a low-driven cross that was parried into the path of Cummings, only to be cleared off the line by Scott Neville to keep the scores at 0-0 heading into the break.
It seemed both teams would create no further openings in the opening 45, but against the run of play, Brisbane almost found the lead with stoppage time on the clock after Luke Ivanovic’s header struck the post, however the Mariners were able to scramble clear and head in level.
The Mariners didn’t take long into the second half to break the deadlock and it would come from their in-form Frenchman, Béni Nkololo.
Jason Cummings once again showing his class, dropping deep to pick up the ball and he played a delightful ball over the top of the defence which found Nkololo just inside the box, who deftly controlled and dispatched the chance, wheeling away in celebration in front of the Mariners faithful for his third goal in as many games.
Soon, it was almost two, as Dan Hall leapt like a salmon from a corner, narrowly heading over Holmes’ net.
Brisbane began to feel themselves back into the game as the match went on with counterattacks on the breakthrough the likes of Jay O’Shea and Hore leading the charge for the away side.
But it was to be the Central Coast who would find the back of the net once again – this time from a Nicolai Müller set-piece after a foul on the industrious Jacob Farrell right on the edge of the box.
Both Müller and Bozanic lined up behind the dead-ball, but it was the German who would rifle the ball home putting it the same side as the keeper, putting the Mariners 2-0 up.
Dan Hall, a makeshift right-back on the night for an ill Lewis Miller found himself up and down the flank consistently throughout the match and almost had a goal to his name too after Müller found him and he beat his defender for a shot at goal that was fumbled by Holmes.
Brisbane would cut-out another opportunity in the 69th minute with Jay O’Shea skipping his way down the touchline to find a delivery onto the head of substitute Juan Lescano who found a way past Mark Birighitti on his 150th A-League appearance and suddenly the momentum was back with the visitors.
The goal seemed to prompt a change amongst Nick Montgomery’s arsenal with a triple substitution readied – Müller, Hall and the birthday boy, Ureña replaced by Noah Smith, Storm Roux and Damian Tsekenis.
As the new boys found their way into the match, Birighitti would be called into action, this time, a brilliant save tipping the ball onto his right-hand post, as the ensuing goalmouth scramble was cleared – a heart in mouth moment for Mariner’s supporters.
The last section of the game saw Brisbane Roar throw everything at the Mariners – with the returning Ruon Tongyik standing tall in the Central Coast backline and holding strong with Brisbane only able to field shots at distance which left Birighitti untroubled.
The heartache the Mariners experienced in their last few fixtures was overcome, the stoppage time curse was lifted and the Mariners back in the winners circle against Brisbane Roar for the first time in eight years.
The Central Coast Mariners will look to build on this win and climb the table as they take on Melbourne Victory yet again this season, on Wednesday, 9th March at 5:05pm at Central Coast Stadium.