Phew! We made it. A season that began far later than usual has finally reached its arrowhead, with six teams still in the race…
Coach Alen Stajcic gives short shrift to the idea that the Mariners have an advantage because their A-League rivals are losing more players to the Socceroos.
Stajcic has dismissed the suggestion the Mariners will have an advantage over A-League heavyweights Melbourne City and Sydney FC, who’ll be losing more players for the upcoming A-League finals.
Thursday’s 2-1 win at Macarthur lifted the Mariners two places to third and their two remaining games are at home to clubs outside the top six.
They will now lose central defender Ruon Tongyik following his call-up to the Socceroos squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers in Kuwait – but Premiers Plate winners City and second-placed Sydney will each be missing three stars.
“We have got to punch above our weight every time we go on to the field and if they (City) are missing two or three players, they have still got a host of stars that don’t even get changed every week,” Stajcic said.
“They have got marquee players, who are on the bench.
“(Florin) Berenguer is on the bench often, (Ben) Garuccio doesn’t start much, (Scott) Galloway has only just got into the team. Such quality players that have come off the bench for them and Sydney FC are no different.”
Stajcic said Dan Hall and Lewis Miller were the men vying to fill Tongyik’s spot.
“Ruon has been outstanding for us, we’re so proud of the fact that we’ve had our first Socceroo come from the club in six or seven years,” Stajcic said.
The victory over the Bulls has kept Central Coast in with a shot of a top-two spot and the chance of securing a coveted Asian Champions League berth.
“About four months ago was the first time I said publicly we were running for the Asian Champions League,” Stajcic said.
“Probably, the majority of people thought we were crazy or laughed at us and thought that was mission impossible, but it’s still our goal.
“It’s out of our control a little bit to the extent that we can’t control Sydney’s results.”
A positive for Stajcic from the game was the goal from defender Jack Clisby.
“We haven’t had goals from too many different goalscorers this year, so really important that some other people chipped in,” Stajcic said.
“It’s the first goal from anyone (this season) in our back four and I think as we move into the finals we’re going to need goals from a lot more places and tonight’s a good start.”
Sixth-placed Macarthur’s loss on Thursday means they remain just two points ahead of surging Wellington, who are on a nine-match unbeaten run.
“Everything is in our hands. In the end, if we’re good enough, we’ll get there and if not then it’s not meant to be this season,” said Milicic, who will lose midfielder Denis Genreau to the Socceroos squad.