The visiting Newcastle United Jets crashed on landing at the Central Coast last night, with the hosts running out deserved 4-1 winners in this 'east coast derby' in front of a festive New Year's Eve crowd of 11,612.
The home team had been looking to give their loyal home fans some cheer, not only with a holiday resort carnival nearby and fireworks after the game, but with Tom Pondeljak and Paul O'Grady returning to the bench.
More good news with the signing of local Coast raised, but former England U17, player Jamie McMaster, who is 23 years old, as well as returning AIS graduate Brad Porter, 18. Both will cover on short-term contracts for the injured start striker Nick Mrdja and ill Nigel Boogard respectively.
Newcastle were this week also without their star striker Ante Milicic, and coach Richard Money was reported to have complained about the likely heat with a 6pm start - a valid point and one which will tell even more at the next Mariners home game against NZ which kicks off at the unlikely time of 5pm on January 8 (take the sun block). "We could not have played Ante Milicic, even if we'd wanted to, due to his ankle injury, but he should be available for the Sydney game", he said after the game.
Money may have foreseen his team's approach to the game as they started in a decidedly lethargic manner, with the Mariners pushing up at every opportunity.
In the third minute John Hutchinson, faced with two defenders at the edge of the Jets penalty area lobbed the ball over defender Allan Picken to a free Andre Gumprecht. The German born midfielder seized the moment and slotted a nicely struck shot past a transfixed Newcastle goalkeeper Liam Reddy. 1-0
Newcastle were looking as disjointed, especially in defence, as they were lethargic, and it was no surprise that a chance came Coast's way in the 19th minute when Hutchinson received on the left of the penalty area and cut it in to Stewart Petrie. The former Dunfermline striker scooped the ball straight to Reddy.
The Mariners were dominating possession and moving the ball around well, and in the 24th minute Hutchinson got in a looping header that went wide.
Newcastle slowly gathered themselves and in the 28th minute Nick Carle made a solo run to the edge of the penalty area but his shot was blocked, and one minute later Matthew Thompson under pressure from Michael Beauchamp got into the area but his shot was deflected.
Mariners back in the attack and from a free kick on the left from 25m out Damien Brown curled the ball through the defence and past Reddy, nestling into the far side netting. 2-0
The best chance for Newcastle of the half three minutes later when Vaughan Coveny free with the ball 25m out in the middle took a snap shot that cannoned off the underside of the crossbar, onto the right upright and back into play.
Just before the break Hutchinson sent a glancing header just wide on the left off Wayne O'Sullivan's cross.
After the break the tempo of the game dropped for a brief spell in the heat, despite the drinks breaks, but that was not the only heat. In the 56th minute Newcastle's Uruguayan defender Mateo Corbo had a battle with Mariner's captain Noel Spencer, and was alleged to have elbowed Spencer not once but twice. Referee Mark Shield saw it that way anyway, sending off Corbo with his second red card of the season.
The Mariners lifted and a few minutes later Petrie hit a snap shot that Reddy saved, and just afterwards a chance went begging when Reddy parried a ball across his goal.
In the 67th minute a header on target for Central Coast and one minute later Hutchinson shot on the run from 20m on the left but it went wide on the right.
Hutchinson continued his form when in the 71st minute he jinked inside on the right as three defenders stood off him. Seeing the space to Reddy's left he shot hard into the right side of goal. 3-0
Substitute Adam Kwasnik six minutes later made a run up on the right, deceiving his marker and laid on a low cross to an unmarked Hutchinson, who alas shot over the bar.
Another Mariner's substitute, Tom Pondejak who had been out since Round 10 with an injured wrist, took the ball up the right flank, and crossed straight to Hutchinson who poked the ball in the net from 7m. 4-0
It looked like a rout was coming but the experienced Vaughan Coveny took full advantage of a cross from the right by substitute Steve Eagleton to sink the ball with a trademark header. 4-1 it finished.
After the game Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna admitted that, despite the comprehensive win, it was not the team's best performance of the season. "We have played better!"
He added that, "I think we handled the heat better than they did too. Also we only really had four days off during the break and it paid off".
Local hero John Hutchinson was non-committal on whether the strikers role suited him, stating he preferred central-midfield but recognising with a smile - "that's 6 from 6"! "I just try to make it hard to be dropped, he added!"
Richard Money, his Newcastle equivalent, saw it a little differently.
"I don't want to blame the heat at all. It was a disappointing performance and a disappointing result for us".
"We have now lost our last two, and next weeks game at Sydney FC becomes even more important for us. Every time we have had a poor result like this we have responded and I'd like to think we can do it again".
"Central Coast played it like a derby (which it was) and we didn't match them, which was strange, as we worked hard in training before the game; but on the day some players, most of the players, in fact, were found wanting".
"Vaughan Coveny was not just our best player; he was our only player"!
Money admitted that there were a few harsh words said in the dressing room but was emphatic that what was discussed was between the coaching staff and the players.
McKinna had also wanted to mention that the win was thoroughly deserved; not only for the reasons already stated, but also as a reward for the way the side has played all season, not always with the best of outcomes.
On the send-off, Richard Money seemed of the opinion that it had been due to the perceived use of an elbow, and was not warranted, but that contrasted with the view held by many commentators at the ground that an over-the-ball challenge was to blame for Mateo Corbo's dismissal.
Money also said that leaving an injury-affected Richard Johnson out in the middle of the park until the 60th minute was not a concern for him. "He was still doing the work and we needed him there to hold things together".
The heat of a late December evening and coming back from a three week lay-off due to Sydney FC's participation in the Club World Championships were always going to make it hard for teams to pick up off where they left off.
The Mariners did rather better that the Jets turning over a draw in Round 15 to only their second league win at home and moving back into the top four on the table, whilst the Jets have squandered 6 points in two games despite still lying 3rd by one point from their victors.
In Round 17 the Central Coast host the NZ Knights next Sunday, and Newcastle travel to Sydney on Friday evening.
In other news Central Coast Mariners CEO Lyall Gorman and development officer, and former Socceroo great, Alex Tobin, announced that Central Coast Stadium, with the Mariners, will be seeking the first round Asian Cup qualifier on Wednesday 1 March 2006 for Central Coast Stadium.