A 5,273 strong crowd turned out at Central Coast Stadium on Thursday night to see the Central Coast Mariners bring in the New Year with a 1-0 F3Derby win over the Newcastle Jets.
Alen Stajcic handed Jaden Casella his A-League debut while Alou Kuol partnered Matt Simon up top in the 51st clash between the two rival teams.
There were few chances early on in a cagey opener, but the Jets were forced into an early change when Jason Hoffman went down and the Mariners slowly began to gain the upper hand without testing Jack Duncan in the Newcastle goal.
Ramy Najjarine wasted a good chance for the Jets, breaking through the defence and firing straight at Mark Birighitti after the Mariners had a shout for a penalty turned down at the other end.
The breakthrough of the half came late though after Gianni Stensness was in the thick of things to win a free-kick just inside half way.
Mariners debutant Stefan Nigro swung a deep free kick into the area that just evaded Simon, but Alou Kuol reacted quickest to nod the ball past Jack Duncan as he rushed out and put the Mariners ahead just minutes before half time.
— Central Coast Mariners (@CCMariners) December 31, 2020
The Mariners started the second half strongly as first Casella and then Nisbet flashed just wide of goal, and Ruon Tongyik almost connected with another deep ball at the back post.
The Jets began to work their way back into the game though and Angus Thurgate must have thought he had levelled proceedings when he curled one goalwards, only for Mark Birighitti to somehow claw the ball away onto the crossbar and out for a corner.
Birighitti had already been on hand earlier in the half to claw an effort off the line from Kosta Petratos and made six saves in a superb performance.
Nisbet was excellent in midfield and had chances of his own, including a mazy run from midfield and then another excellent chance after robbing Connor O’Toole of the ball but then firing straight at Duncan in goals.
Oli Bozanic almost put the icing on the cake of a strong 90 minutes as he stole possession before launching a speculative effort to catch Duncan off his line, only for the ball to rattle the crossbar and the Jets to clear it away.
That was it as the Mariners finished 1-0 winners and ended the year on top of the A-League table, ahead of a clash with Macarthur on Sunday at Campbelltown Stadium.