Mariners v Gold Coast

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

Central Coast Mariners put on probably their best display of 2009 in defeating previously rampant leaders Gold Coast 3-0 at Bluetongue Stadium tonight, delighting the 7,934 yellow and navy faithful.

Well worked and taken goals in open play from Nicky Travis in the first half, and then by Matt Simon, and a nice combination finished by John Hutchinson, in the second capped off a memorable night for the yellow and navy.

The result moves Central Coast to within two points of the Competition lead, and at least temporarily into second spot on the ladder.

The game was hailed by Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna as the side’s best performance of the campaign. "Over 90 minutes this was the most consistent. We created chances, kept going, and just believed in each other. Instead of being negative we were taking half a chance to go forward and did very well. I thought the two guys up front led the line well, the four boys in midfield were outstanding and the boys at the back were solid. Overall, it was very pleasing," McKinna said. "You couldn’t pick the best man on our team tonight because everybody stood up and it was a great team performance."

Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg was forward, as usual, with his views on the game. He paid tribute to a much-improved Mariners side and also said his side's reputation as the team to beat was making opposition teams lift each week, but said his team played a part. "I think we, as the Gold Coast, I think our reputation went ahead of us and every team that we play against plays out of their skin," Bleiberg said. "And if I give a value for the Mariners the way they played last week against Adelaide (1-0 loss) I give you one dollar and today they played one million dollars."

He was equally as candid about star striker Shane Smeltz's ejection from the field in the 67th minute. "I didn't see any player kicked or any blood, so I call it probably a soft red card but I can't judge I don't even know what the event was," Bleiberg shrugged.

In truth Smeltz had been well held by the rejuvenated Mariners defence, and along with the midfield battle with Jason Culina also won by the home side, the Gold Coast contingent can have little to complain about.

Having secured their own turf, with Doig and Vukovic particularly dominant, Nigel Boogard was able to add some width down the right freeing Nicky Travis and Michael McGlinchey to wreak havoc.

The first goal came in the 26th minute when Simon collected a headed ball from strike partner Dylan Macallister before turning and finding Travis with a neat pass. The Englishman did well in wrong footing three defenders and cooly slotting the ball home past Jess van Stratten for his first HAL goal.

Gold Coast almost hit back just before halftime when Brazilian Anderson forced a good save out of Danny Vukovic with a thunderous strike from a free kick, but this was the only real chance of the game.

Any chance of the Goald Coast turning the game around, despite the Mariners making the most of any possession by playing the ball around, and playing the ball on the 'deck', was dashed when Simon collected a ball from Nigel Boogaard on his chest, controlled it and turned inside defenders Sebastiaan van den Brink and Kristian Rees, then sprinted to finish well from almost 20 metres out and at a tight angle on the 54th minute mark.

United had been hit by injury, forcing Bleiberg to hand first starts to former Juventus goalkeeper Jess Van Strattan and teenage African refugee Golgol Mebrahtu but really for the fancied side, they never looked seriously in the game.

Icing on the cake in the 70th minute when a combination of Bojic and McGlinchey opened up the Gold Coast defence allowing John Hutchinson to weave some magic and curl a weighted shot into the right side of goal.