Top six the reward for Mariners’ F3 Derby delight

It was a classic F3 Derby as the Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners battled for three massive points in the Isuzu UTE A-League at McDonald Jones.

The Mariners weathered an early storm and raced to a three-goal lead within 35 minutes leaving the Jets crowd silenced thanks to goals from Moresche and two from Jason Cummings.

In the second half, Jets were fortunate to find a way back into the contest after two switch offs from Mariners’ full backs within the opening five minutes of the restart set the F3 Derby alight.

Garang Kuol, a second half substitute, would seal the game for the travelling support scoring his second A-League goal and securing a massive three points for the Mariners as tempers boiled over in stoppage time and Daniel Penha was shown a red card.

The Mariners and Jets entered this match completely level in their  head to head record and Nick Montgomery named an unchanged Starting XI from Sunday’s win in Wellington which featured the return of Lewis Miller to the bench after he had his red card downgraded from a two match to a one match suspension.

After an ANZAC Ceremony, the match began at great intensity with the Mariners struggling to get out of their half within the first five minutes. It often looked like Frenchman Béni Nkololo was the man to lead the Mariners out, as he picked up the ball and drove forward on numerous occasions. He would have the first chance for the visitors, but his effort was over the crossbar.

At the other end, Mark Birighitti who previously played for Newcastle Jets, had to be called into action palming away a flick on header and pushing round the post an audacious effort from distance as the scores remained level.

The turning point of the half would come from Dan Hall who played a long ball looking for Moresche who out-muscled Taylor Regan and then proceeded to lob the ball over the on-rushing Jack Duncan in composed fashion. The noisy neighbours found themselves one goal to the good on enemy territory and they weren’t for stopping there.

Moresche got on the scoresheet in back to back games

Moments later, Béni Nkololo was marauding down the wing and when he was up-ended in the corner, a free-kick was awarded. The Frenchman has a deadly left foot and swung in a dangerous ball that was invertedly flicked on by a Jets body inside the six yard box and Jason Cummings sporting his new hair cut, was on hand at the back post to nod home into the net. Cummings wheeled away with his infamous Joker celebration in-front of the Terrace Novocastria, playing the role of villain in their eyes and hero to the Mariners fans.

Soon, Cummings would have another, and he would taunt the home fans even more as the Mariners were ripping them to shreds on their own park. Nkololo was involved again as he was fouled in the box and referee Kurt Ams pointed to the spot. Cummings smashed his penalty down the middle, into the roof of the net with the Mariners strutting their way into a three goal lead within 35 minutes.

At half time, changes were made for the home side and they had a way back into the game within the opening minute of the restart as a cross into the back post wasn’t dealt with by Storm Roux and Lucas Mauragis stole in ahead of the Kiwi to poke home.

Within minutes, it was 3-2 as the usually reliable Jacob Farrell couldn’t sort his feet at the back post from another cross and haphazardly put the ball into his own net.

With momentum against them, the Mariners squad rallied and got a foot-hold in the game once more. A massive credit to Nick Montgomery and his young chargers who calmly got the ball in midfield with Josh Nisbet and Max Balard composed, orchestrating their side’s route into control once more.

Josh Nisbet had a great game on midfield until he was forced off with a bruised calf

With the introduction of Harry Steele, Matt Hatch and Lewis Miller, the Mariners gained further forward momentum and had a chance to score four goals in back to back games as Hatch saw his effort deflect into the path of the Brazilian, Moresche, who was denied by Duncan spectacularly with the goal gaping.

Moresche would have another chance, again set up by Matt Hatch, but he was closed out by Duncan once more as Hatch’s ball was a little too heavy and the in-form forward couldn’t dink it over the keeper this time.

Moresche very nearly had his second

Jason Cummings was hungry for a hat-trick and had two chances to get it when he was played through by substitute Marco Ureña and bearing down on goal, saw the ball stick under his feet, allowing Riley Warland to get back and make a goal saving challenge and keep his team in the contest. Cummings next chance came a minute later with Béni Nkololo using his pace and trickery to work an angle for a cut back to the Scotsman whose initial effort at goal was blocked out.

Newcastle Jets thought that they had the equaliser from a corner that was nodded home, however VAR intervened and recommended an on-screen review of which Kurt Ams viewed and judged Kye Rowles to have been fouled in the lead-up to the goal much to the frustration of majority inside McDonald Jones.

Garang Kuol has been impactful off the bench lately and it was no different against the Jets as he got yet another goal. Mark Birighitti’s free-kick was sent long to Béni Nkololo who nodded it onto the 17-year-old Kuol. Kuol hit the ball first time across the keeper and into the corner of the net, sealing all three points for the Mariners in the F3 Derby.

As frustrations rose for the Jets at the death, Daniel Penha was shown a straight red card after he inexcusably elbowed Harry Steele in the back of the head which will see him miss a few games of the remaining A-League season.

When full time was blown, the Mariners found themselves in the top six for the first time since February as Nick Montgomery won his second F3 Derby and the Yellow and Navy win their third in a row at McDonald Jones Stadium, a feat never seen before.

Now, the Mariners return home for the final week of the season, with games against Western United, Brisbane and Newcastle Jets, rounding out what has been a crazy, thrilling, and exciting Isuzu UTE A-League campaign.