More late drama as Doka stunner takes Mariners top

Central Coast Mariners returned to the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League with a dramatic win over Wellington Phoenix.

Mikeal Doka struck an absolute stunner in the 91st minute to seal a 2-1 win for Mark Jackson’s side, which saw them leapfrog Phoenix onto top spot with three games to play.

Almost 10,000 were in attendance for this huge match at Our Paradise, and were treated to late drama for the second time four days.

Jackson made three changes from the side that beat Melbourne City just four days ago, with Jacob Farrell, Bradley Tapp and Alou Kuol coming into the starting eleven in place of Nathan Paull, Miguel Di PIzio and Ryan Edmondson.

Jacko’s side were in the ascendency from minute one and had early chances, Kuol glancing a header just wide after three minutes and Josh Nisbet forcing a strong save from Alex Paulsen a minute later, as the game started the complete opposite to what many expected to be a cagey affair.

Angel Torres and Max Balard were both looking dangerous with their set piece deliveries, on 15 minutes Torres whipped a ball in which narrowly evaded Brian Kaltak.

Kaltak was at his best at the other end moments later when Wellington had their first foray forward on 19 minutes, but Ben Old was thwarted by a superb block from the Brick Wall of Gosford.

The closest either side came to an opener in the first half was on 25 minutes when Doka was fouled 25 yards out and took on the free-kick himself, rattling the frame of the goal with a brilliant effort.

The Brazilian came close again on the half hour mark, picking up the ball in a central area before driving forward and unleashing a powerful effort from 30 yards which whistled narrowly wide.

Torres then saw a shot blocked on 35 minutes, before another cross agonisingly escaped the reach Kaltak at the back post, as the Mariners continued to dominate, but couldn’t find a breakthrough before half time.

The Mariners kept pushing for an opener after the restart and it came on 61 minutes, as a fine team move unlocked the Wellington defence and Torres finished off with a fabulous diving header.

Doka played a key role once again, finding the slightest of gaps to slide in Storm Roux who claimed his third assist of the season.

The Mariners came so close to doubling their lead shortly after, as Doka won back possession in the Phoenix half and found Nisbet on the edge of the box, our Socceroo curling narrowly wide of the post with his left foot.

Doka had a go himself moments later, also curling narrowly wide from distance with his left but that would just be a sighter for what he had up his sleeve for later on…

At the other end, there was a nervy moment when Kosta Barbarouses headed goalwards and Torres cleared off his own crossbar before Danny Vukovic was able to claim, before Wellington did make it 1-1 through Old on 78 minutes.

With the game looking like it was going to finish as a third consecutive draw between the two sides, Doka pulled something out of the very top drawer, to send Our Paradise into raptures and the Mariners top of the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Jackson’s side now hold pole position for the Premiers Plate with three games remaining, whilst also seeking a double and potentially even a historic treble with our AFC Cup journey also entering the business stages.

Your Mariners are next at Our Paradise on Sunday April 21st (3pm), as we host Adelaide United in our final Isuzu UTE A-League home game of the regular season, before welcoming Kyrgyzstan club Abdysh Ata-Kant to Gosford the following week.

Come and help Take Us To The Top, with tickets available via the links below.