An eighth defeat in 11 matches against arch-rivals Brisbane Roar has failed to cloud Central Coast coach Graham Arnold’s A-League title dream.
The Premiers’ Plate winners have been forced to take the scenic route to the grand final after the Roar claimed a 5-2 aggregate win from Sunday’s major semi-final second leg in Gosford.
Arnold could be forgiven for dreading a repeat of last season’s heartache after his Mariners lost the major semi for the second year running, forcing them into a sudden-death grand final qualifier against Perth Glory in Gosford on Saturday.
But while the Roar appear to have gained the upper hand on their rivals again at just the right time, Arnold was philosophical.
“These things are happening for a reason,” Arnold said.
“It will be our turn when the time is right.”
The result continued a dominant run for Ange Postecoglou’s side, which is yet to lose in Gosford in 14 starts.
The sides have clashed 11 times in the past two seasons alone, with Central Coast’s sole 90-minute triumph in that time coming in their regular season clash at Suncorp Stadium in December.
Arnold, though, is unperturbed, believing the Mariners have proved themselves the equal of the Roar.
“I think we were on the same level football-wise as Brisbane, which I think is no easy task,” Arnold said of the second leg major-semi final defeat.
“I think we’re the first team that’s outpossessed Brisbane in two years. We outpossessed them by 54 to 46 per cent and we played very, very good football.”
Standing in Central Coast’s way of a third grand final appearance are an in-form Perth Glory, who edged out Wellington 3-2 in Saturday’s minor semi-final.
The Glory’s record against Central Coast is unflattering but Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson is wary of a side spearheaded by New Zealand ace Shane Smeltz.
“They’re scoring a lot of goals,” Wilkinson said.
“They’ve scored 10 goals in their last three games, so they’re definitely going to be tough.
“But we’re at home and the performance was pretty good (against Brisbane).’
“A lesser team at 2-0 down could have chucked it in, but the spirit we’ve got in the change room is fantastic here and the guys work for each other and that showed.”