Mariners v Jets

A-League report by Chris Dunkerley
Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle United Jets

The Central Coast Mariners thought they had a win sewn up after being on top for much of the game but a late goal to Joel Griffiths left both teams at the bottom of the table despite entertaining a crowd of 8,439 in Gosford.

As local derbies go this was one that had desperation in buckets, with the Mariners having not scored all regular season, and both teams propping up the table. An encouraging draw last weekend for Newcastle (with the brace by newcomer Milton Rodriguez perhaps masking a disjointed team performance) and the Central Coast lost their first ever game in Melbourne but went down battling.

Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna shuffled his available pack, with striker Nick Mrdja still not available, and pushed veteran Stewart Petrie into a wide role and teamed midfilders Tom Pondejlak and John Hutchinson up front. With vocal Newcastle 'squadron' supporters this time evident in Bay 13 all was set for a local derby.

In the third minute Tom Pondeljak tried to capitalise on a massed defence by turning and sending an overhead kick goal-bound, but young Newcastle 'keeper Ben Kennedy was equal to the task.

Five minutes later the Mariners crafted another opportunity for themselves when from a short corner on the left by Jamie McMaster and a wall passing move engineered by Tony Vidmar the Socceroo shot across the face of goal from the right.

At last the Jets made serious inroads into the Central Coast space, with Milton Rodriguez timing a run on the left that gave him space to shoot at an angle. It took a deflection off McMaster but Coast 'keeper Danny Vukovic held it well.

In the 13th minute after a surging run down the left by Stewart Petrie and fine cross from the former Dunfermline left winger, the ball reached Matt Osman who headed it back in the mixer. John Hutchinson pounced and slotted the ball home. It had been 545 mins since the yellows last felt that exhileration. 1-0

Newcastle, stung by the goal struck back through Rodriguez whose shot on target on the run from the left was palmed just wide of goal by Vukovic.

In the 28th minute, frustrated by the defensive wall set up by the counter-attacking Jets, the Mariners sent a ball over the defence as Pondeljak squeezed through but he just couldn't get a shot in.

One minute later a long ball 'on the deck' through the wall found Hutchinson running hard but it outpaced him on the excellent surface and Kennedy gathered.

Newcastle went wide to find a way through the effective Mariners defence and from the right Matt Thompson shot from 25m with the ball deflected wide.

Before half-time Rodriguez got one on one with Vukovic and the custodian came away with the ball.

Danger at the other end with the Jets defence napping but midfielder Joel Griffiths tracked back to clear the threat.

After the break the Jets looked sharper but it was a McMaster shot from 15m drawing a save from Kennedy that first caught the vocal crowd's attention.

A claim for a penalty from the Jets fans as Paul O'Grady made a courageous tackle in the area to rob Rodriguez of the ball, but referee Simon Prydacz ruled it was clean.

In the 68th minute Nick Carle sent a rocket toward goal from 25m and although it was probably crossbar bound Vukovic stretched high to tip it over the bar.

The Mariners looked to be on track for a win when Newcastle was reduced to 10 men in the 75th minute as skipper Paul Okon was handed a straight red card as last man and bringing down Mariners replacement striker Adam Kwasnik from behind.

Lawrie McKinna, coach of the Coast, was to later point to this moment as a turning point, as "we started sitting back a little bit and we did not take advantage of the 10 men".

A fright for the Mariners in the 78th minute as the ball was knocked into the area with Jets players forward but Vidmar was able to clear eventually.

Kennedy was out fast in the 81st minute to take the ball off the head of Andrew Clark.

Sustained pressure by the Jets led to a move on the left with Griffiths running into the area, and receiving a pass from Rodriguez, beat O'Grady's tackle and slotted the ball past Vukovic. 1-1

Griffiths thought he had a penalty in injury time as he went down after a tackle by Alex Wilkinson but controversially referee Simon Prydacz stood over the prostrate striker holding a yellow and a red card.

A chance for the Mariners to lift the full points was dashed when a fierce strike by Kwasnik from the right across goal cannoned off the far post, and Petrie could not beat the defence on the rebound.

After the game Jets coach Nick Theadorakopoulos was upbeat about the derby but not so much in admiration of the referee consistency, having lost two players to red cards and two points he believed in his team's reach.

"That was probably the best we've played all year" ... "we got one monkey off our back with the goal, we need to get rid of the other one and hopefully this Thursday against New Zealand", added McKinna.