The Central Coast Mariners had to settle for a point against Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night, coming from behind to secure a 2-all draw at Industree Group Stadium.
With the two sides sitting in second and third coming into the match, over 8500 fans packed into Our Paradise to watch the teams face off.
The Mariners undermanned after a long trip to Wellington a week ago, with Storm Roux and Jacob Farrell ruled out through injury.
Beni Nkololo also absent with a one match suspension following a fifth yellow card, while Jason Cummings came back into the squad through the bench.
The match started off with a bang, with Danny Vukovic required to make a smart save in the first minute.
It was Marco Tulio who had the first meaningful chance for either side, coming through some brilliant work from Josh Nisbet. The midfield maestro picking out the forward with a sweeping cross-field pass, the Brazilian taking an exquisite touch to maintain space.
The striker’s shot beating an outstretched Lawrence Thomas, narrowly missing the outside of the post before going out for a goal kick in the 16th minute.
Western Sydney challenged the Mariners goal six minutes later, with some brilliant defensive scramble and a late offside flag keeping our lead intact.
A Calem Nieuwenhof pass found Oliver Bozanic in some space off the left, with the midfielder playing it across to Brandon Borello. The striker’s effort on goal heroically blocked off the line by Dan Hall before the rebound was blocked again by Brian Kaltak.
Despite the offside flag being raised shortly after, the intensity and determination shown by the duo was maintained by the Mariners for the entire 90 minutes.
Silvera gave the Central Coast the lead shortly after, with the forward collecting the ball 30 yards from goal. The youngster proving again why he is the long-range specialist of the competition, taking two touches before unleashing from distance.
His shot taking a slight deflection before rocketing into the bottom right corner, his fourth of the season so far. The strike giving the Mariners a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute.
Five minutes later the Wanderers clawed their way back into the match, with Daniel Wilmering finding room inside the box, crossing it over to Yeni Ngbakoto. The winger flicking the ball behind his back, slotting it into the goal in the 35th minute.
Despite both teams having chances neither side was able to convert in the final 10 minutes of the half, with the scores level heading into break.
Both teams came out of the sheds rejuvenated to begin the second period, with Silvera almost scoring his brace in the 53rd minute. The striker cutting onto his right, whipping in a shot that fell just wide of the post.
Western Sydney took the lead seven minutes later, hitting the Mariners on the counter. Substitute Aidan Simmons collecting the ball in space off the right, dribbling into the box.
The midfielder finding Borello near the penalty spot, making no mistake after finding an inch of room. The striker picking out the bottom left corner, handing the Wanderers a 2-1 lead.
With the Mariners chasing the game and looking for an equaliser Montgomery turned to his bench, bringing on the likes of Jason Cummings, Christian Theoharous, Sasha Kuzevski and Harry Steele.
Momentum begun to shift shortly after, with the Central Coast dominating possession in the hunt for an equaliser. After being awarded a free kick 25 yards from goal the Mariners pulled off a sensational play, with Theoharous rolling the ball to Tulio.
The Brazilian finding our newest signing with an immediate pass back, the winger driving into the penalty area.
The youngster played the perfect cutback to pick out Nectar Triantis, who let loose with a driving shot. His goalward effort glancing off Cummings, bouncing into the net in the 73rd minute to level the scores at 2-all.
From then the Mariners took control, having the majority of the chances for the remaining 20 minutes. In sticky and humid conditions, the Mariners excellent conditioning was on clear display, with our forward line having multiple chances on goal.
The Wanderers held strong until the 94th minute, when Adama Traore gave away a handball just outside the box. Theoharous stepping up to make the moment his own, smacking the free kick past the outstretched arms of Thomas.
As the Mariners fans around the ground waited to see the ripple of the net, it was the goalpost that spoiled the party, with the substitutes free kick smacking off it and towards safety for the Wanderers.
That chance was the final one of the match, with both sides having to share the points. The result keeping the table unchanged, with the Mariners still sitting in second place, the Wanderers and Phoenix chasing in third and fourth.
The Central Coast now go on a three-match road-trip, first facing Sydney FC away next weekend, before travelling to Brisbane and Perth. The side returns to Industree Group Stadium on February 24th, as we play host to Wellington Phoenix.