A Nick Mrdja hat-trick has earned the Central Coast Mariners an emphatic 3-1 victory over the Queensland Roar in their opening Pre-Season Cup fixture at Central Coast Stadium.
Two first half goals and another in the second to the former Perth Glory Championship winner sealed the Mariners victory and continued the coast’Äôs impressive record at their Gosford home, where they have conceded just two goals in four matches against Hyundai A-League opposition.
Mrdja’Äôs scoring spree began in the 22nd minute after the lanky marksman swept home a loose ball from a John Hutchinson corner. 18 minutes later, Mrdja (pictured above) doubled his sides lead with a neat right foot tap in at the near post from a Tom Pondeljak cross that left Roar ’Äòkeeper Tom Willis stranded.
’ÄúI wish I could do that every game!’Äù said the former Swedish based striker, clutching his second souvenir match ball earned at the idyllic bay side Stadium.
’ÄúThe important thing is that the team is winning games.
’ÄúAt the end of the day, it’Äôll say on the scoresheet that I scored three goals, but you have to look at how everyone contributed to them as well.’Äù
Mariners captain Noel Spencer was damaging in midfield for the home side, with Pondeljak and Hutchinson showcasing samples of the form that earned them their notoriety in the old NSL.
Aside from an early period of enterprise, Queensland struggled to match their opponents throughout the first half, though imports Remo Buess of Switzerland and Hyuk-Su Seo of Korea did appear menacing at times.
The second began much like the first for the Mariners, with Mrdja adding his third 14 minutes after the break.
Having timed his run exquisitely to match a delightful through ball from his former Perth team mate Pondeljak, Mrdja slammed his sixth goal in four matches at Central Coast Stadium past the advancing Willis.
Substitute Reece Tollenaere added a consolation for the visitors in the dying stages following a neat movement down the left flank involving recent squad addition Alex Brosque.
’ÄúThe first half was great, but we dropped off a wee bit in the second,’Äù said Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna after the match.
’ÄúI felt we controlled the game well to begin with and if we had been offered a 3-1 at the start we definitely would have signed for it.’Äù
The Mariners next play fellow Round 1 winners Sydney FC at Central Coast Stadium in Round 2 of the Pre-Season Cup on Saturday, July 30, while Queensland now travel to Auckland to take on the New Zealand Knights on the same day.