After conceding a 5th minute goal and then going down to 10 men for over 60 minutes the Mariners failed to turn second half dominance into a goal, losing 0-1 to the Queensland Roar at bayside Bluetongue Stadium.
The home team went into this game 3 points ahead and on top of the table no matter the outcome of the other Sunday game but were severely weakened, missing one third of their squad - Tony Vidmar (suspension), Alex Wilkinson, Matt Osman, Nik Mrdja, Paul O'Grady (injured), Danny Vukovic and Nigel Boogaard (Olyroo duty). Local youngsters Andrew Redmayne (rgk), Matt Simon, and Ian McAndrew were drawn in to the game 15 in what was a severe test for the Central Coast club.
The Roar, fresh from their first home win and traditionally a stumbling block for the locals, were in Gosford full of confidence. The Roar coach Frank Farina admitted that he faced a selection headache with all but two injured players pushing for selection, and youngsters Michael Zullo and Robbie Kruse making a telling contribution last weekend.
The Coast had a horror start to the game leaking a soft early goal, then losing two players to injury in the first 20 minutes.
Then in one of the most controversial decisions this season referee Peter O'Leary saw much more in a 50:50 sliding challenge between Brad Porter and Matt McKay and the young Mariners player was show a straight red, and sent off in the 31st minute - much to the disgust of the home crowd.
The 5th minute goal came after the Roar had the Mariners locked in their own half, and a shot by Michael Zullo was palmed away in a fine save by stand-in keeper Matthew Trott. From the corner Trott however came out and missed the ball which fell in the box. Coast's Dean Heffernan made an attempt to clear but only placed it in front of big Roar defender Josh McCloughan who had moved away from his marker Adam Kwasnik.
Even more weakened than they had started the Mariners nevertheless they forced their way into the game and only one chance fell to Reinaldo who under determined pressure was only able to shoot across goal.
With the Queenslanders looking flat the home side looked more likely to snatch a goal, with a 49th minute run by Tom Pondeljak, set up by captain John Hutchinson, deserving better than the weak shot at its end.
In the 57th minute Saso Petrovski forced a diving one handed save from Reddy.
With Petrovski and Simon starting to play off each other chances came, with first Andre Gumprecht and then Dean Heffernan giving Simon opportunities but alas the young striker couldn't beat keeper Liam Reddy.
Simon's best chance was in the 88th minute when battling Sasa Ognenovski, he got a shot on target only to have Reddy smother it.
Central Coast Mariners' lead in the Hyundai A-League has been cut to just one point after suffering this 1-0 loss to Queensland Roar. After being runaway leaders in the early rounds of the competition the Mariners are now just one point ahead of Newcastle after nine rounds, with Melbourne, Adelaide and Queensland all only two points further back.
Queensland coach Frank Farina was happy with the points but not his team's performance, "I think that was the worst game we've played this year", he stated. "Not that we played poorly, it was just that I thought in the second half we'd do better, but we got the 3 points!" "Keeping a clean sheet, that was pleasing", he added.
Lawrie McKinna, the Central Coast coach, for his part was not willing to risk a fine to comment on the send off. "Nah, copping a fine won't change the result. It's a decision that changes a game but I think we'll be using the channels the FFA have in place that you can put your concern in and we'll do that tomorrow". "It's hard for the young lad, but he's a positive young boy .. he'll be OK. He's come on well".
He did admit though that, "we couldn't get going in the first 10 minutes, let in a bad goal, but after that we were comfortable, even with 10 men". "The performance in the second half was fantastic, we created 3 or 4 chances, and Frank was forced to change his shape", he claimed.