The FFA Cup made the inward journey to Mudgee as the Central Coast Mariners took on Blacktown City at Glen Willow Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After what was a dominant performance from the Mariners, they progressed through to the last 16 with a late Béni Nkololo goal on debut.
In the wet and windy wine region, Mariners Head Coach Nick Montgomery named a strong starting line up that included a start at centre-back for Lewis Miller as well as a competitive debut for 18-year-old Jacob Farrell. Through the opening minutes the Mariners dominated much of the play and created many chances.
Miller who has just recently returned from Australian U23 duty had an early claim for a penalty waved away by referee Kurt Ams when he was brought down in the box by ex-Mariners player Jordan Smylie. No penalty was awarded, however moments later, Nkololo continued to be industrious down the left wing and set up Marco Ureña for a chance, before Matt Simon had a shot strongly palmed away by Tristan Prendergast in the City net.
It would not be Prendergast’s last act however as he made a fantastic save later in the half to deny an Ollie Bozanic through on goal, with a strong 1-on-1 save.
As the wind picked up, both teams headed for the heat of the changing rooms and in the second half, Nick Montgomery’s men enjoyed possession of the ball and continued to dominate the match.
Ollie Bozanic was foiled not once but twice more by Prendergast who was beginning to output a man of the match performance in goal after clawing out two identical free-kicks that were destined for the top corner.
In the 76th minute, the dead-lock was finally broken however, as Béni Nkololo was put through on goal and struck the ball past the City keeper to the immediate delight of the travelling Yellow Army who embraced the Frenchman behind the goal. A new fan favourite who’s name continued to be sung through the remaining minutes as the Mariners continued to create more chances with debutant Moresche going close as well as Nkololo for his second. The team from the Central Coast held on however, to run out 1-0 winners.
Progression was the aim of the afternoon and having achieved that, the Mariners will now turn their attention to the start of the Isuzu UTE A-League season in the F3 Derby.