Mariners are the team to beat this season

Tony Tannous Columnist

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    The Central Coast Mariners. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

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    If you are looking for the team to beat come the grand final, you’d be hard pressed to go past the Central Coast Mariners.

    Tony Popovic and his Wanderers may have walked away from Gosford with the three points, their eighth straight win, the competition lead and title favouritism among the bookies.

    The Wanderers may well go on to win the premiership now, but on the evidence of this pulsating night in front of a near full house at Bluetongue Stadium, the Mariners are the competition’s best and most complete team.

    They proved, in the big wet, in the face of an almighty traveling contingent of about 6000 Wanderers fans, they have the capacity to hurt Popovic’s men more than any other team.

    Graham Arnold hasn’t always got it right throughout the season, but at home he has had his men ready, and they were certainly primed for Saturday’s blockbuster.

    It only took the Mariners a few minutes to show how they could hurt the Wanderers, stretching and testing their system both in behind and through the use of width.

    Within the first minute John Hutchinson played a ball in over the top of the Wanderers high defensive line for Mitchell Duke to chase, turning Michael Beauchamp, forcing him into the corner, where he was pressured.

    It was an early sign of the Mariners’ power, an ability to stretch the Wanderers vertically through penetrating runs.

    The other thing the Mariners were able to do so well was stretch Western Sydney, especially by using their right flank, such an effective outlet this season.

    In the third minute, Mat Ryan picked up a ball, saw Pedj Bojic had a few yards on Mark Bridge and released it immediately.

    Off Bojic sprinted, playing an early ball down the line, in behind Adam D’Apuzzo, for Bernie Ibini to chase. Giving D’Apuzzo a couple of metres start, Ibini powered beyond him.

    Rather than sit and admire his through ball, Bojic carried on, into the box, ahead of Bridge. Ibini found him with a square ball, and while Bojic, at full tilt, struggled to control the ball on the wet surface, the pattern was set.

    As the match went on, Josh Rose started chipping in down the left. As the Wanderers, under relentless pressure, unable to keep the ball, started to retreat more, Michael McGlinchey started to come into the space.

    The Mariners certainly hurt the Wanderers with their relentless run, and later, when the space opened, their combination and link-up play was easy on the eye.

    Bojic, in particular, was phenomenal, giving Bridge one hell of a working over. Rose, too, kept Youssouf Hersi busy.

    Meanwhile, Hutchinson and Nick Montgomery, working closely with Trent Sainsbury and Patrick Zwaanswijk, made sure there was very little space for Shinji Ono to get on the ball and influence the Wanderers front third.

    This was a tactical victory for the Mariners in almost every sense. They just couldn’t round off all their great work, even when presented with what looked a dubious penalty.

    Only when Aaron Mooy and Labinot Haliti came on late did the Wanderers have any front third possession.

    Perhaps not since a ten-man Melbourne Victory picked them off at Parramatta Stadium in round eight in November has the Wanderers’ system been so stretched and out of control.

    Even though they scrambled with terrific spirit, it wasn’t the usual controlled and compact defending.

    Indeed, there were many moments of panic, with Ante Covic and the odd post coming to the rescue.

    It’s little wonder Popovic hinted over the past couple of days there is improvement in his side ahead of next season.

    Clearly he still has somewhat of a dilemma to resolve at number nine this season, where there has been lots of industry but little goal threat.

    While Dino Kresinger continues to work hard and has become a crowd favourite, he hasn’t looked like scoring for some time.

    Haliti, more typically a wide player, may have given himself a chance of starting against the Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.

    Arnold and his team, on this evidence, should go into any re-match in the finals or championship decider with much confidence.

    On an unforgettable night, there was certainly an air of destiny about the Wanderers’ win in front of a wonderful traveling contingent.

    But if they can maintain the standards displayed on Saturday night, and the football gods give them a break for a change, the Mariners certainly look the one to beat.

    Tony Tannous
    Tony Tannous

    Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA

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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • March 7th 2013 @ 7:26am
      whiskeymac said | March 7th 2013 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Good on WSW but ccm hopefully will still get the rewards for the season.

    • March 7th 2013 @ 7:40am
      Arvind said | March 7th 2013 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      You gotta score to win football games. Wanderers had two good opportunities and they took one. Mariners had three good chances and they did not score.

      • March 7th 2013 @ 1:46pm
        bryan said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:46pm | ! Report


        “This was a tactical victory for the Mariners in almost every sense.”—-Hah!

        We get a lot of this sort of nonsense from AFL commentators,too!

        My son’s answer to them, in both codes is,:——-“SCOREBOARD!!!”

        It doesn’t matter how much of a “twinkletoes” you are,if the other team gets more goals,they win–Sports 101! 🙂

    • March 7th 2013 @ 8:12am
      Mals said | March 7th 2013 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      Good story Tony. People have short memories, CCM have already beaten WSW twice away at Parramatta. The Wanderers winning streak will soon come to an end.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [].

      • March 7th 2013 @ 8:45am
        Kellett_1992 said | March 7th 2013 @ 8:45am | ! Report

        Mals it is you with the short memory.

        Round 1
        0-0 draw

        Round 15
        0-2 mariners

        Round 23
        0-1 wanderers

        • March 7th 2013 @ 8:52am
          WSW77 said | March 7th 2013 @ 8:52am | ! Report

          Seriously round 15, no Hersi, no Poljak, no Dino, no Beauchamp, that’s four of our Major players. Let’s not forget we have by far the smallest squad in the A-League.

          Didn’t take that scoreline (especially the stupid second Goal, but hey a Goal is a Goal) too seriously at the time and we knew that we would loose that game, well I did.

          CCM will loose this weekend no doubts Smuft’s FC will win them, then we just need to win the NIX, then we will win the Smurf’s at home and be responsible for kicking them out of the Finals.

          What bitter taste that will leave the little Smurf’s with…

          Down Hill for the CCM in my Opinion by that I’m not saying that the Wanderers will win every Game but I do think that CCM will fall a little more.

          • Roar Guru

            March 7th 2013 @ 9:06am
            Cameron Kellett said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:06am | ! Report

            WSW 77,

            Firstly what are you questioning? I provided a result calm down.

            Secondly, squad size has to be 20-23. The Wanderers have 22.

            If Wanderers did not fill the squad or sign an Australian marquee what is the big deal. Don’t make excuses, live with it. Mariners have 24, so Wanderers aren’t far behind. Smallest squad yes, but give me a break.

            • March 7th 2013 @ 9:30am
              Minister for Information for the Democratic People's Republic of Football said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:30am | ! Report

              These WSW pests are becoming more numerous on The Roar since they discovered the internet. See you at the derby! Greetings – Smurfs!

              • Roar Guru

                March 7th 2013 @ 9:34am
                Cameron Kellett said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:34am | ! Report

                I like the Wanderers but their supporters act like they own the place. When the novelty wears off I wouldn’t be surprised if the fans cocky nature puts other interested fans off??

              • March 7th 2013 @ 9:37am
                Midfielder said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:37am | ! Report


                Yep those Centre lInk Drive Buys or their team is … but TBH found their travelling fans to be very nice people … all those stories of head shaved, no teeth, covered in tats, arms dragging on the ground [just the women mind you the guys worse] … all untrue as I said I found them to be a nice crowd knowledge and showed respect…

              • March 7th 2013 @ 9:48am
                Minister for Information for the Democratic People's Republic of Football said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:48am | ! Report

                Just a bit of banter Middy. All in good fun.

    • March 7th 2013 @ 8:20am
      Arvind said | March 7th 2013 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      Mal: The first game between Wanderers and Mariners was a draw. CCM has not beaten Wanderers twice at Paramatta. Wanderers Coach is the one who started all the mind games leading up to the game and it backfired on them big time. Mind you Mariners are the most consistent team in the A-League but they have a tendency towards losing the big ones.

      • March 7th 2013 @ 1:04pm
        Kasey said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

        Arvind, you’re on a sports banter page you can say ‘Choke’ here:)

        the Mariners have a horrible(if you like them) tendancy to choke in big important games. From week 9 to week 22, the Mariners were top of the table and odds on to lift a 3rd Premiers plate.

        Momentum is everything in sport, right now the Wanderers have it and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them lift the Plate this month. I bet the FFA have a replica ready at the stadium to present if they are a chance. As I understand it each replica Plate costs roughly A$10k, I know this because Adelaide United do not have one to display in their History Room trophy Cabinet…upon querying, the response from FFA was: ” happy for you to have one, but you’ll have to pay for it yourselves.” My understanding is that the History committee are asking the board to pay for it with the plan B being pass the hat around (online) for the fans to chip in.

    • March 7th 2013 @ 9:17am
      Midfielder said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:17am | ! Report


      A good article …. BUT the Drive Buys took their chance we did not….

      Who is to say that Popa will not get his team to play better …. my biggest concern is converting the changes we create into goals …

      Looking forward to the last four rounds … COYY …

      Also don’t write of the Mexican Bandits they have come back to a bit of form…

    • Roar Guru

      March 7th 2013 @ 9:17am
      Mantis said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      I agree. CCM were definately the better team on the night, and no doubt the conditions helped the Wanderers more than CCM. Credit to WSW though, they did win the game, but I think if they were to play again, in different conditions, CCM would come away with the chockies.

      • Roar Guru

        March 7th 2013 @ 9:23am
        Cameron Kellett said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        How did the conditions benefit Wanderers when Mariners are used to such conditions as our fellow Roarers have pointed out.

        • Roar Guru

          March 8th 2013 @ 10:22am
          Mantis said | March 8th 2013 @ 10:22am | ! Report

          I think that the way that CCM play compared to the way WSW play, that awful conditions suited WSW more. They often play with less (sometimes far less) possession and score from the counter, whereas CCM play with the ball and try and work and pass their way through a side. With torrential rain and torrid conditions, this had to suit the more defensive side more than an attacking side.

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