Central Coast defeated Sydney FC emphatically tonight in the local derby, with the Mariners coming from behind to finish 3-1, with Damian Mori scoring a brace.
As local derbies go this one is of the David & Goliath variety, though the Coast faithful will remind all of the outcome of that encounter. With solid ripples of skyblue through the yellow wave of home fans as school holidays attracted families up to the Coast and hard core Covers 'sung-off'in the Kendall Bar with the Marinators before-hand. A party atmosphere was in store. The home fans despite the lowly position on the table responded for their team's 3rd home game out of 8 so far, and were rewarded by the team.
After the draw with Queensland had slowed Sydney's momentum last week coach Terry Butcher shuffled his pack putting Saso Petrovski up front in a 4-4-2 with Benito Carbone. Mariner's Lawrie McKinna still had short-term signing Damian Mori at his disposal and he went 4-4-2 as well with John Hutchinson joining 'frogger' up front.
The Mariners knew they had to win and attacked from the outset with a good chance at 5 minutes with first Stewart Petrie and then John Hutchinson getting into dangerous positions.
In the 11th minute Mori was looming on goal and mark Rudan make a superb intervention.
At the other end Sydney got up in numbers on the right and as Saso Petrovski was tackled he laid the ball to Carbone who tried to go around Alex Wilkinson but Wilkinson went to ground and the referee judged him to have dragged the ball off Carbone's feet with his hand for a free-kick just outside the are.
Carbone stood angled to the ball with measured steps he curled the ball over the wall and curled it in late. Danny Vukovic in the Coast goal seemed to start to go right and then lept left and could only parry the ball into his own net. 0-1
The Mariners knew they had to dig deep to come back from there, and to their credit they did this time.
It was helped perhaps by the 12 minute absence of Terry McFlynn under the blood rule.
As the noise of the two sets of fans in a crowd of only just under 12K approached deafening, several chances fell to the Mariners. Two of these when Matthew Bingley almost scored own goals.
It was Paul O'Grady who used his height from corners that paid off for the Mariners when in the 40th minute the big man rose gracefully above the pack from a left sided corner kick and steered his header forefully toward goal. Bolton got a glove to it but could not prevent the goal. 1-1
A ball came in from the left to John Hutchinson but Bingley intervened however instead of clearing the ball it skewed off his boot and rebounded off the right upright. Straight to Hutchinson whose snap shot also richocheted off the same upright.
Sydney FC coach Terry Butcher had been leaping around like a Punch and Judy puppet all half, and he went in at the break looking like he was going to speak severely to his lads over a sports drink.
After that break Sydney did lift it's tempo, with Brosque wide with his shot in the 47th minute.
52 minutes gone and disaster for the visitors - Hutchinson got up on the left, and laid off the ball to Stewart Petrie. The journeyman Scot looked up and fired a perfect pass accross goal to Damian Mori, inexplicably free on the right. The veteran goalscoring machine took his shot cleanly and easily past a wrong footed Clint Bolton. 2-1 Combined age of provider and scorer 72!
The Mariners were lucky not to have at least a card for Andrew Clark in the 55th minute when he appeared to pull back Alex Brosque who was past him.
Sydney FC were now pushing up and putting sustained pressure on the Coast defence but they were doing their job well enough to contain any opportunities to shoot.
It was the home team that was getting shots in, with Mori having one deflected in the 74th minute, and Hutchinson drawing a save low down from Bolton.
In the 88th David Zrdilic swivelled in the box and Danny Vukovic did well to palm it wide on thre right.
A piece of magic sealed it for the Mariners when in injury time Petrie move up on the left and showing good pace for that stage of the game steered a perfect pass again to Damian Mori at the far side of the box and headed home pwerfully. 3-1
After the game it was over half an hour before the coaches appeared for the media conference, with Sydney coach Terry Butcher facing first. "Yeah we're under pressure, but we're Sydney, we're the champions, you've got to live with that pressure," fumed Butcher. "There's a lot of players that haven't responded to that pressure and responded to the situation because it demands a lot more of them, a hell of a lot more than last year, and the sooner they realise that the better." "It's still new for me in terms of looking at players ... and I'm looking very, very closely at them now because I want to pick players against Melbourne that really want to play."
"I was proud of everyone out there tonight, I felt we were in the match right from the start and deserved the three points," said Mariners coach Lawie McKinna. "We really wanted to put on a good performance for the home fans tonight, their support has been fantastic and they, like us, hope that this is the platform for us to turn our season around."