Central Coast Mariners lost the Club’s final pre-season friendly ahead of Hyundai A-League season 10 to NSW NPL outfit Sydney Olympic at Pluim Park in Lisarow on Tuesday evening, though despite the 3-1 defeat Head Coach Phil Moss believes his men remain on track for the start of the new campaign.
Up until last night the Mariners had enjoyed a strong pre-season in terms of results, gaining draws with Hyundai A-League rivals Melbourne City (Lismore), Brisbane Roar (Brisbane) and Newcastle Jets (Mudgee), as well as having advanced to the round of eight of the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup courtesy of wins over South Coast Wolves and Olympic FC.
While the result against Sydney Olympic undoubtedly failed to flatter the yellow and navy, Moss said he and his coaching staff could take plenty of positives away from the encounter against the grand Greek club, including improvements from numerous individuals as well as the additional competitive minutes placed into the squad’s legs.
“It sounds strange given the scoreline, but I thought we played some of the best football that we’ve played in pre-season given what we went out there to do,” Moss said after the game. “I am not happy with the result, of course, but I am happy with the process with players sticking to the way that we want to play.”
“Some of the football was very easy on the eye, and we threatened their goal on numerous occasions – I thought we could have been 3-0 up by half time. Their ‘keeper kept them in the game first half, (John) Hutchinson hit the post, (Nick) Fitzgerald had a great chance, Malick Mané had a great chance, and I think Malick looked threatening every time he went forward.”
“It was just some sloppy moments in defence in the second half, particularly from set pieces, that I am not happy with. That’s something that we’ll be tightening up before Newcastle at home in round 1, and our transition to defence needs to tighten up a bit too.”
After a goalless first 45 which the Mariners dominated, Sydney Olympic broke the deadlock shortly after the break when Yianni Spyrakis prodded the ball into the back of Liam Reddy’s net from close range.
Mariner Nick Montgomery nearly restored parity shortly after Spyrakis’ opener with a cracking strike from outside the box which struck the crossbar. And less than a minute later, Anthony Caceres’ curling goal bound shot was headed off the line and out for a corner.
Dimi Hatzimouratzis added a second for Olympic in the 56th minute with a sweet finish, before Christopher Godoy-Bascur made the score 3-0 to the visitors in the 65th minute with a header direct from a corner.
Matt Sim reduced the arrears for the Mariners 20 minutes before full time when he capitalised on strong build up play down the left by Michael Neill and Mané.
“At the end of the day we lost the game at both ends of the field tonight,” Moss said. “If we had taken our chances it would have been over by half time and if we hadn’t defended so sloppily at set pieces, they wouldn’t have scored.”
“So it was one of those games, but there’s certainly a lot to take out of it moving forward.”
The Mariners also played an internal match mixing Foxtel National Youth League players with first team squad members at the Club’s training ground on Tuesday morning.
“I am delighted that nearly everyone in the squad got 90 minutes today apart from Kim (Seung-yong) who gave us a good, solid 55 minutes (in Lisarow) before he copped a knock – he’s fine and he looked very sharp, particularly in the first half,” he said.
“Malick Mané stepped up today, and in the earlier game Josh Rose looked good and Glen Trifiro did very well, so there’s a lot of players putting their hand up for round 1 and it’s going to be a tough selection meeting for that first round,” Moss concluded.
Central Coast Mariners will hold the Club’s annual Fan Day at Gosford’s Central Coast Stadium this Saturday 4 October from 11:30am. Join in the fun and festivities for free as the Mariners get set for Hyundai A-League season 10.
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Sim 71′)
Sydney Olympic 3 (Spyrakis 47′, Hatzimouratzis 56′, Godoy-Bascur 65′)
Pluim Park, Lisarow