If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s Central Coast Mariners’ attitude as they prepare to take on Kashiwa Reysol in the Asian Champions League (ACL) in Japan on Wednesday night.
Some reassessment could have been excused after back-to-back defeats for the first time in three years cost the Mariners top spot in the A-League, but goalkeeper Matt Ryan says manager Graham Arnold has told his players to stick to what they know best despite selecting an inexperienced squad.
“We’ve just been going about business as usual, keeping our focus on what we’ve been doing all year because it’s what we’ve been successful with,” Ryan said.
“I think we’ve been a little bit unlucky the last two weekends and perhaps we were a little bit flat at the weekend losing to Sydney (FC). But the Western Sydney game I thought we created the better chances and we just couldn’t put it away.
“Graham’s always said the team’s in trouble when we’re not creating chances and that’s just not the case at the moment. So we’re just looking to put that final touch on our moves going forward and hopefully we can just put it in the back of the net.”
With the A-League’s leading striker Daniel McBreen rested from the 17-man squad that arrived in Japan on Monday, the job of breaking a three-game streak without a goal will likely fall to Bernie Ibini, Mitchell Duke and Nick Fitzgerald.
McBreen, Josh Rouse, Mile Sterjovski and Pedj Bojic all started Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Sydney FC but were left at home after Arnold lamented a lack of leadership among his senior players.
The Mariners have missed their last three penalties, including one as they were held to a 0-0 draw in their ACL Group H opener by Suwon Bluewings.
But in a sign that spirits remain high, Ryan said he’d have no problem stepping up despite having his effort saved in the 1-0 defeat to the Western Sydney Wanderers earlier this month.
“If you look at all the mistakes you make as a young kid in football, you’ve just got to learn from them,” Ryan said.
“I’d have no problem stepping up again. If it came to that situation, yeah, I’d put my hand up.”
The Mariners are hoping it won’t come to that against a team still finding its feet.
Kashiwa Reysol kicked off their season in fine style, winning 1-0 at Guizhou Renhe a fortnight ago and opening the new J League with a 3-1 win over Kawasaki Frontale, but got a reality check at the weekend when they lost 3-0 at FC Tokyo.
“They’ve played two games to date so obviously they’re fresh but probably we can capitalise on them not having played much football this season,” Ryan said.
“We’re obviously a bit seasoned and this year already we’ve played 20-odd games and they also had a difficult loss on the weekend, so hopefully it look a bit out of them and we can get over the top of them.
“They like to play a very quick and open game. Whereas we obviously like to stick to our structure. So hopefully our structure can withstand the counter-attack when they come forward in numbers and we can pinch it. They commit too many numbers going forward and we can capitalise on that and hit them on the break.”