The curtain has come down on the Central Coast Mariners’ frustrating fifth season, with a 3-nil defeat at the hands of finals-bound Wellington Phoenix on an archetypal evening in the Kiwi capital.
The curtain has come down on the Central Coast Mariners- frustrating fifth season, with a 3-nil defeat at the hands of finals-bound Wellington Phoenix on an archetypal evening in the Kiwi capital.
Following an emotional attempt from Lawrie McKinna to deliver a pre-match team talk for the final time in his five year tenure as Mariners- boss, the team would have had all the inspiration it needed to send him off a winner, but it was a cagey start in trying conditions from both teams, with heavy showers and swirling winds playing havoc at the “Cake Tin”.
Indeed, seven minutes had elapsed before either goalkeeper got a touch, Danny Vukovic with the first taste of goalmouth action, as he easily dealt with a Paul Ifill cross.
With chances in the opening exchanges few and far between, the hosts made one of theirs count on 14 minutes, as Vince Lia played a delightful ball through for Manny Muscat in the right channel, and his cross was met by Tim Brown, who buried his header from six yards to give the Phoenix the early advantage.
Alex Wilkinson deflected a Brown shot wide soon after as Wellington looked to kick further clear, and the baby Mariners were finding the going tough.
Andrew Clark, given the honour of wearing the captains armband in his final appearance in the Yellow and Navy, pulled off a vital clearance after Leo Bertos rounded a charging Vukovic to deliver the ball into the mixer, while the referee ruled Vukovic got the slightest of touches to tip an Ifill thunderbolt around the post on 26 minutes.
The Central Coast worked its way slowly into the contest and had the two best chances as the half wore down, both falling to Matt Simon.
The East Gosford product latched on to a free kick but his header sailed wide of Liam Reddy-s far post, and late on, Clark weaved his way into the penalty area before laying it off, only for Simon-s effort from the edge of the box to end up the wrong side of the upright.
Ifill had a penalty claim waved away after a battle with Boogaard soon after the resumption, and the Mariners immediately went to the other end, where Simon only narrowly cleared the crossbar from 20 yards after a neat first touch.
The Central Coast marksman had another chance soon after when Porter delivered a good cross from the right, but Reddy was up to the task in intercepting the back post volley.
Matthew Lewis provided the visitors with their next chance as McKinna-s men continued to press, when his ball in from the left skidded across the face of goal, and agonizingly out of reach for Dylan Macallister and Nikas, both of whom were charging through.
But although the Mariners looked as though an equaliser was around the corner, former Crystal Palace frontman Paul Ifill put any hopes of a revival to bed with two goals in as many minutes.
The first was one of the more bizarre ever seen in the Hyundai A-League, as an indirect free kick from Clark 25 yards out was somehow intercepted by Daniel before reaching its intended recipient Matthew Crowell, allowing the Phoenix to break down the left, and the ball into the box was cleared only into the path of Ifill, who tucked the ball away to furious protests from the Mariners players, who believe the referee-s whistle had gone, after Clark had taken the initial set piece.
The second was more straightforward, as the ex Selhurst Park favourite latched on to a free kick inside the area and expertly transferred the ball onto his other foot and slot home from a tight angle, ensuring, the Mariners night would end, similar to their season as a whole, in disappointment, after showing plenty of positive signs.
Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 2. Matthew CROWELL, 3. Shane HUKE (11. Dylan MACALLISTER 58-), 5. Brad PORTER, 6. Brady SMITH, 10. Panny NIKAS (29. Nick FITZGERALD 70-), 12. Matthew LEWIS (24. Bernie IBINI-ISEI 67-), 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON.
Unused Subs 30. Mathew RYAN (GK).
Yellow Cards Clark 83-
Red Cards None
Wellington Phoenix 40. Liam REDDY (GK), 2. Manny MUSCAT (14. Adrian CACERES 67-), 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS (11. DANIEL 77-), 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE (15. Eugene DADI 84-), 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 17. Vince LIA, 22. Andrew DURANTE (C).
Unused Subs 20. Reece CROWTHER (GK).
Yellow Cards Lia 68-, Hearfield 82-
Red Cards None
Goals Brown 17-, Ifill 79-, 80-
Referee Chris BEATH