A dominant Mariners performance was not quite enough on Sunday as Alen Stajcic’s side were held to a draw by Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
With Marco Urena out suspended, Alou Kuol started up front with Matt Simon and Matt Hatch replaced Dan Hall on the bench for the Match Week 19 clash.
The Mariners started positively and it took just four minutes for them to take the lead. Simon dropped deep into midfield, passing to Gianni Stensness who in turn found Stefan Nigro.
The fullback played in a well weighted cross and Simon beat everyone else to the ball and his header, despite a touch from Acton, squirmed across the line to put the Mariners ahead.
— Central Coast Mariners (@CCMariners) May 2, 2021
Simon was played in by Daniel DeSilva shortly afterwards with a wonderful pass but his first touch was pounced on by Acton, before DeSilva fired wide himself and Josh Nisbet had a close range flick saved by Acton too before he put the follow up wide.
The Mariners turned the screw continually but could not find the finishing touch, with Kuol forcing another save from Acton as he rocketed an effort at goal, and captain Oliver Bozanic curling an effort over as he was given space.
Victory came close as half time neared when Robbie Kruse struck the post with an inventive flick, but the Mariners held their nerve and remained ahead at the break.
The hosts thought they had a goal five minutes into the second half when Rudy Gestede headed home Kruse’s cross, but it was quickly ruled out by the referee and replays showed Gestede using his hands to impede Kye Rowles and propel himself into the air.
They pulled level though just passed the hour mark, the ball dropping to Callum McManaman from a set piece and he fired a curling effort past Mark Birighitti into the far corner.
That setup a busy final half hour, and Nisbet again came close as he rose to meet a cross but could only head straight at Acton, who saved from Gianni Stensness only minutes earlier.
Birighitti was big late, saving a low effort well with 10 minutes to play before making a stunning stop to deny Jacob Butterfield’s effort in injury time as the game ended all square.
The Mariners now head into an extended break in second spot on the table, with the next outing away from home against Brisbane Roar on Wednesday, 12th May.