Central Coast Mariners head coach Nick Montgomery was extremely pleased with his team’s efforts against Adelaide last Friday night, as the team ran away with a dominant 4-1 victory.
The result saw the Mariners snatch second place out of the hands of the home side, while also qualifying for the next edition of the AFC Cup. Montgomery is delighted to have been able to finish as high as the squad have, only falling behind a strong Melbourne City side.
“It was a fantastic result for the club, a massive achievement to finish second in a competition behind Melbourne City who are worthy winners of the Premiers Plate. The table never lies, throughout the season it is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said.
“We are there on merit, we have finished second and that means that we get an AFC Cup spot as well as an automatic semi-final. That’s the pressure that I put on the players, we have got young boys in there, but I think they’ve really grown into men this year.
“To be able to put that pressure on them and for them to perform the way that they did I think is a testament to everybody.”
The Mariners have not qualified for Asian competition since the 2014/15 season, with the club ready to make their debut in the AFC Cup competition. Montgomery is extremely pleased to have been able to break this drought, however his full focus is currently on the finals series.
“It is the first time in a long time that we will be competing in Asia. I don’t think anyone thought for many years that this club could compete and challenge for that and I think we have proved everybody wrong,” he said.
“We have got a good bunch of players here. Everybody gives everything and I think we’ve shown this year that we do deserve to be where we are and that’s only half the job done. Now we go into finals, and we’ve got to keep that momentum going and take that belief and confidence in.”
It is the effort of the entire squad that has led to them securing second position, with Montgomery pleased with how the group have been working together this season. The side pushing each other to bring out the best, with that clearly being evident this campaign.
“Everybody here fights for each other week in and week out. We’ve got a real honest group that come in and train hard every day and they believe that they are a good team,” Montgomery said.
“We believe we can match anybody in the competition. I think we have proven that over the course of the season.”
One of those players who has been at the heart of the Mariners success this season is Josh Nisbet. The midfield maestro was rewarded for his efforts on Sunday night, securing his first ever Mariners Medal. The Central Coast head coach more than happy for Nisbet to walk away with the honour.
“It’s a massive achievement for Josh, the Mariners Medal is over the course of the season the most consistent player and are really appreciated by teammates, fans and everyone involved in the club. I think no one can doubt that he deserves it. I think he’s an inspiration for everybody,” he said.
“He shows that if you have got a big heart and you are willing to go up against anyone and fight every week, he has been one of the best midfielders in the competition all season. Everybody is really stoked for Nizzy, he is a great guy first and foremost. He has even started to score a few goals which is nice. He more than deserves the accolade.”
With a week off before playing our first leg of the semi-finals away next weekend, Montgomery and his men now have the luxury of watching Adelaide, Wellington, Western Sydney and Sydney FC all fight it out to progress.
It will still be business as usual at the Mariners Centre of Excellence, training hard in preparation for a massive two legs of our upcoming semi-final.
“The plan is that we will refresh, train hard like we always do every day and this weekend we have the luxury of watching elimination finals. At the end of the day elimination finals are a one-off game and there’s always a risk of getting knocked out. We avoided that and go straight into a semi-final against the highest ranked team from the two knockouts,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, we watch the games this weekend and train hard. We will train throughout this week and on Saturday, then we’ll train next weekend and be ready for whoever we play.”