Mariners v Roar

Cup report by Trent Dickeson
Central Coast Mariners v Queensland Roar

The Central Coast Mariners started the A-League pre season cup in winning style defeating the Queensland Roar 3-1 with Mariners striker Nick Mrdja scoring all of his team's goals.

It was his second hat trick in only his fourth game played at the Mariners HQ with the previous being against Adelaide United in the semi final of the Australian qualifiers for the club world championship.

The positives for the Roar from this A-League 'warm up' match was that they played until the final whistle easily winning the last 20 minutes eventually scoring a well deserved goal through substitute Reece Tollenaere five minutes from time.

The first 20 minutes were dominated by midfield play as both teams felt each other out on a superb pitch at Central Coast Stadium. It was totally different conditions from last time the teams met in Townsville with the temperature hovering around 14 degrees at the 7:00pm kick-off and a dew on the field.

It was a corner ball that allowed Mrdja to open his account on 23 minutes for the evening when the Roar failed to deal with ball delivered by John Hutchinson and Mrdja was on the spot like a good striker to poke the ball pass Tom Willis in the Roar goal.

Only a minute later a caution was administered to Mariner Stewart Petrie for simulation, Petrie could count himself unlucky to be cautioned instead of taking a penalty kick to extend the Mariners lead.

On the half hour Mrdja linked up with Tom Pondeljak who was one-on-one with Willis but shot to the left hand side of the goal after the keeper did well to reduce the angle.

Mrdja only had to wait until the 39th minute to take his personal tally and his teams total to two when he finished a bouncing cross supplied by Tom Pondeljak. Mrdja's first time strike by swing his leg around at waist height left his marker Remo Buess with little chance.

Referee Srebre Delovski continued to bamboozle the healthy crowd when Mariner John Hutchison was supplied a dream through ball by Mrdja and took it to Willis who then looked to bring Hutchinson down after he had pushed the ball around the Roar keeper. What looked to be the most clear cut penalty had all in the stadium confused when the referee sounded the whistle and issued Hutchinson this time with the second caution of the match, which was also the second for simulation. The entire Mariner's bench rose as one including Executive Chairman Lyall Gorman when it was realised the free kick was awarded against them, it took some gentle persuading by 4th official James Lewis to restore calm.

The second half saw the emergence of Alex Brosque from the Roar bench as he replaced a roaming Tae-Yong Shin and the Roar looked more organised in attack producing some work for John Crawley in the Central Coast goal.

Two minutes before the hour mark the Mariners sealed the three points for the home side when Pondeljak again played provider for Mrdja who ran in from the left hand side of the goal to put the ball between Willis's legs to crash into the back of the net.

Many expected Mrdja to be rested at this stage after taking a knock earlier on the left knee but Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna decided to leave him on the field for the full 90 minutes.

The Roar's best chances came in the last 25 minutes with them easily running over a content Mariners outfit. Both Royce Brownlie and Hyuk-Su came agonising close to reducing the margin.

Reece Tollenaere finally did peg one back on 85 minutes when some good crossing and lead up work by Karl Dodd and Brosque squared up Crawley giving Tollenaere an open net to hit.

Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna was obviously happy after the game, "If some one offered me 3-1 before the game I'd take it" McKinna said, but on his teams second half performance he was more critical.

"We need to work on our second half performances, we can't switch off against a team like Sydney FC or alike, they will punish us, he added."

The Roar's coach Miron Bleiberg was not disappointed and made a point of stating that he couldn't be disappointed by the referee, a tongue in cheek reference to the no penalty decision involving Hutchinson.

"I had a tactical problem that I couldn't fix until half time and I was hoping that we could go to the break only 1-0 down but the second goal killed us."

"We will take some positives out of the last 20 minutes and it will be a less naive team next time we visit Gosford."