The Central Coast Mariners’ first competitive match of the campaign will be played on Wednesday August 2 against PS4 NPL NSW 1 competition frontrunners, Blacktown City at Lilys Football Centre. Kick-off is 7:30pm.
After the team’s final training session ahead of Wednesday night’s match, Paul Okon previewed his side’s first competitive hit out of the campaign.
The Central Coast Mariners come into the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 fixture with almost a full bill of health. New recruits, Wout Brama and Asdrúbal are not available for selection as Brama has not yet arrived in Australia and Asdrúbal has only completed two sessions with the club.
Mariners’ goalkeeper, Ben Kennedy has been kept in cotton wool to ensure a full recovery from the injury that kept him out of action last season (achilles) – he will be rested on Wednesday evening, meaning young goalkeepers, Tom Glover and Adam Pearce will battle for a start between the sticks.
The Mariners Pre-Season so far
The Yellow & Navy come into this fixture full of confidence having not conceded a single goal during their first four pre-season matches. The Mariners boast four clean sheets in a row against the: Central Coast All Stars (6-0), Sydney Hakoah (1-0), Australia U23’s (0-0) and Newcastle Jets (2-0).
Throughout those matches, Andrew Hoole has proved to be the danger man, scoring five goals – three of them coming within twenty minutes against the Central Coast All Stars.
On Tuesday morning, the Central Coast Mariners finalised their preparations with a session at North Turramurra Synthetic training fields. Lilys Football Centre is a synthetic pitch and today’s session helped the Mariners familarise themselves with a surface the Hyundai A-League players are not accustomed to playing on.
New Mariners recruits, Tom Hiariej, Alan Baro, Daniel De Silva, Tom Glover, Kye Rowles, Josh Rose, Andrew Hoole and Antony Golec are all available for selection.
Paolo in the Press
“This is a big game for us, it’s our first official game against a very good opposition,” Okon said.“ Blacktown are coming first in the NSW NPL so from our perspective we are treating this like it’s a game during the season. Our concentration and preparation has been spot on.
“We worked the players incredibly hard at the end of last season, we stayed back for another four to five weeks and really put some work in, we brought the players back a week earlier than what we’d planned. We wanted to make sure we were prepared as best as possible for the FFA Cup so there will be no excuses from our part. Most A-League teams aren’t at their peak fitness levels at this stage of the cup but we think we’re in pretty good knick.
“Everyone’s available except for Asdrúbal who only joined us last week, he probably won’t be ready for another few weeks.
“Tomorrow we will play what is our fittest team but that should be no indication of who will start in round one of the A-League. We still have another eight weeks of pre-season, tomorrow we will put out a team who we think will do the job.
“We’ve signed some good players, we had a review towards the end of last season and understood quite early where we needed to strengthen. As soon as the final whistle blew in Melbourne we went to work. I jumped on a plane, got down to business. With five visa players coming off contract it was too important for us to wait.
“I’m a big believer that good footballers can fit into any system, into any team. The big factor for most of the visa players that come to Australia is the transition of moving countries. We are on the other side of the world and if there’s a bit of a language difficulty that may take time but everyone has settled in well so far.
“I’ve got a lot of memories playing against Blacktown at what was then called Gabbie Stadium, it was grass not synthetic but I had some tough battles which is certainly what we expect tomorrow evening and we welcome that. It’s a cup game, important game for us and we hope to deliver,” Okon said.
Your guide to Blacktown City
The Mariners opponents, Blacktown City are no strangers to the magic of the Westfield FFA Cup. Last season City achieved an impressive feat, defeating Sydney United 3-0 in the NPL Grand Final, whilst making the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 8 – beating Sydney United 6-2 and Bonnyrigg 3-0 before they were knocked out 3-0 by Sydney FC.
Blacktown City boast the likes of former Central Coast Mariners players Matt Lewis, Zach Cairncross, Mitch Mallia and former Foxtel National Youth League player Lewis Beumie. Among the City ranks is former Western Sydney Wanderer, Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets player, Joey Gibbs.
City have been in fine form this PS4 NPL 1 season, winning 14 of their 20 NPL matches to date and sit narrowly on top of the ladder ahead of APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC.
Scoring an impressive 43 goals in their 20 fixtures, City’s front line has been prolific. Attackers James Andrew (11), Joey Gibbs (11) and Mitchell Mallia (6) have led the line whilst the back four have been solid, conceding less than one goal per game on average.
A club that’s rich in history, Blacktown City have won FIVE Waratah Cups, Eight NSW NPL Championships, SEVEN runners up medals and were crowned Australian PS4 NPL Champions in 2015.
Blacktown City’s most recent encounter was a 1-1 draw against Rockdale City Suns FC at the weekend.
Blacktown City squad: 1.Tristan Prendergast (gk), 3.Giorgio Speranza, 4.Roberto Speranza, 5.Grant Lynch, 6.Matthew Lewis, 8.Daniel Araujo, 9.Joseph Gibbs, 10.Connor Evans, 11.Danny Choi, 12.James Andrew, 14.Mitchell Mallia, 15.Shayne D’Cunha, 16.Dakota Askew, 17.Lewis Beumie, 18.Mason Ireland, 19.Zachary Cairncross, 20.Dylan Niski (gk), 21.Bo Hyun (Kenny) Chun, 22.Yuta Konagaya, 24.Samuel Hamilton
Central Coast Mariners squad (*indicates unavailable for FFA Cup Selection):
Goalkeepers: Tom GLOVER, Ben KENNEDY* Adam PEARCE
Defenders: Harry ASCROFT, Alan BARO, Antony GOLEC, Jake McGING, Josh ROSE Storm ROUX, Kye ROWLES
Midfielders: Adam BERRY, Wout BRAMA* Daniel De SILVA, Tom HIARIEJ, Blake POWELL, Liam ROSE
Attackers: Asdrúbal*, Kwabena APPIAH, Josh BINGHAM, Trent BUHAGIAR, Andrew HOOLE, Connor PAIN
Wednesday 2 August 2017
Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32
Match: Blacktown City vs. Central Coast Mariners
Venue: Lily’s Football Centre, Seven Hills
Tickets: CLICK HERE
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS AUSTRALIA
Hash-tag: Join the match conversation using #BLCvCCM