Nick Montgomery’s Mariners continued their good pre-season form with a 2-0 win over a strong Melbourne City outfit at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday.
Jacob Farrell laid on a delightful through ball for Jason Cummings in the first half for the Mariners top open the scoring, while Thomas Aquilina stole the ball in City’s half before expertly finding Michael Ruhs to double the advantage in the second half.
Cummings had a second goal disallowed for offside in the second half, and post-match Montgomery was full of praise for the two marksmen.
“It was a great finish from Jason, doing what he does,” he said.
“A good run behind the defender and a top finish, you put him in a position, and he scores goals. He should have had one in the second half too, but unfortunately he had it chalked off and then Michael who is in top scoring form in pre-season, it’s a good confidence builder for him to score the second.”
City named a strong team for the pre-season hit-out, including forward quartet Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout, Matthew Leckie and Marco Tilio, but struggled to threaten a resolute Mariners defence.
The clean sheet was a big positive for Montgomery, with the coaching staff aiming to get minutes into the legs of a raft of new defenders, including recent signing Kelechi John, who continues to impress in pre-season.
“With the youth grand final in Sydney we had a strong line-up down there which meant we didn’t have many subs, but we tried to get everyone minutes and it was good for Kelechi to get his first start,” he said.
“I thought he was outstanding, Nector Triantis and Brian Kaltak in the second half I thought they defended really resolutely and limited them [City] to very little.”
“He’s a physical athlete, it’s amazing he’s still 23 years of age,” Montgomery said of Kelechi.
“It looks like he has been playing for a long time at the top level, so to be able to bring him in to replace Kye Rowles was a massive effort from us.”
“But we’ve also been able to bring in Brian [Kaltak], we’ve got Dan Hall, Triantis, we’ve got competition for places at the back now which we probably didn’t have last season and that’s what we try to do with our recruitment.”
Not only was Saturday an opportunity for a meeting with A-League Men’s opposition, it gave the squad a chance to be out in front of a home crowd at Family Day and back on the turf of Central Coast Stadium, something Montgomery said was a special outing for the players.
“While the weather wasn’t great, it was fantastic to be able to get back out in front of the Mariners faithful as part of family day,” he said.
“I want to thank everyone that came out despite the conditions, because it was a great day for us and the fans made it a really good atmosphere despite the conditions.”
“We are hoping to have Central Coast Stadium rocking this year, and hopefully we can build off the strong showings and great support we saw last season.”