Jackson eyes ‘exciting’ top of the table clash with Wellington

Mark Jackson encourages his side during their 2-1 win at home to Melbourne City in January.

Central Coast Mariners Football Manager Mark Jackson was on media duty in Wellington on Monday afternoon, as he and his team prepare for an ‘exciting’ game at the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League on Tuesday afternoon (2pm AEDT).

The Mariners bounce into this game full of confidence, on the back of an unbeaten streak of 13 matches, dating back almost three months.

The run was extended in style on Saturday evening, as one of our performances of the season saw us blow Adelaide United away with three first half goals from Christian Theoharous and Angel Torres (2), plus a late penalty from Jing Reec.

“We’re in good spirits, no [physical] issues have been flagged up from the game against Adelaide, everyone has recovered well.” Jackson said.

“The travel is not new to us, we have done it before this season with the AFC Cup so we have a routine that we stick to, so the boys will be prepared,” he added.

“Coming off the back of the Adelaide game, we had a good win and the scoreline reflected that. More importantly for us, was how we went about it and how we performed, particularly in the first half, and how we dug in moments in the second half.”

We are showing a lot of facets to our game, both when we are under pressure and when we are playing well. It’s now about getting our consistency.

Wellington boss Giancarlo Italiano was hugely complimentary about Jackson’s side, speaking to the press himself this week. He stated the Mariners are the ‘best team in the league at the moment,’ and touched on some similarities between the two sides.

Jackson was equally complimentary of Italiano’s Wellington side, who he says are deservedly top of the pile at this stage.

They’re the top team in the league because they’re top of the league! Quite rightly so because of how they’ve been performing and how the manager has got them playing. So full respect for that.

Mark Jackson on Wellington Phoenix.

“We know they are going to be dangerous, they have got some really good players, they’ve got a good way of playing, they are really hard to break down as well. So we are going to have to be on top of all aspects of our game.”

“There are similarities in certain aspects. They play a bit of a different formation, in spells and in certain areas they look like us in their structure but what we see from them is a lot of fluid movement and interchange of positions, rather than a certain set structure. They play with a lot of freedom and certainly have a lot of quality, and they are full of confidence.”

“They’ve been the most consistent team this year in my opinion. We are in a good moment with our run but they started well and have continued with that.” Jackson said.

“I expect a really tough game. Like I say all the time, any opposition we play in this league brings dangers but we also have to take our game to the opposition as well.”

Torres stole the headlines once again, with two stunning strikes against Adelaide, making it nine goals in his last eight games and into double figures for the season.

In the Colombian, Jackson has one of the league’s most-feared attackers in the league right now at his disposal, but he was keen to praise his overall contribution of our number 11 and maintain that every player is playing their part in this incredible run.

“He’s just one player who is in good form at the minute but of course when players score goals they get the headlines.” Jackson said.

“As much as people recognise his attacking attributes, he is so much more to the team.

Jackson on our in-form forward Angel Torres.

“Like with every player, every defender plays their part in attack and every attacker plays their part in defence.”

Asked if this is the biggest game of the season so far, with the Mariners able to hit the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League with a win, Jackson replied:

“It’s the most exciting game, with what’s at stake in regards of being able to go top of the league. Wellington have been there a while and have been consistent with that and we have been growing as a team and building with results over the last couple of months.”

We have finally got ourselves into a position where we can compete to be top of the league for a moment in time.

Jackson on the chance to go top of the Isuzu UTE A-League.

“That’s a huge motivation for the players and staff, of course, but it doesn’t change what the game is. It’s a game of football against a good opposition that we have to be ready for and we have to perform,” he said.

“Being top of the league at this stage of the season means nothing. More importantly, we are in a good vein of form and we are growing as a team. That’s what we want to see as coaches, that we are developing as a team and we can sustain that going forward because consistency is massive.”

“If we can be consistent then I’m sure success will come.”

“If you take your foot off the gas in football it comes back to bite you. We work hard every day and we are going to fight to keep growing as a team, as individuals and fight to keep our run going.”

A bumper crowd is expected at the Sky Stadium, as we visit Phoenix on Waitangi Day, the national day of New Zealand and Jackson is excited for the opportunity his team has.

“We like playing in front of crowds. Every footballer should want that. They want to play with an atmosphere. At home you get the support and away you get a bit of stick but thats all part and parcel of it.” Jackson said.

“Everything is an opportunity to grow as a team. To come to New Zealand, with the travel and quick turnaround, we like challenges,” he said.