The derby day drizzle didn’t put off the 6424 attendees to what proved to be an entertaining contest.
Strap in, Central Coast A-League Men fans, coach Nick Montgomery is promising a bold style to ensure the Mariners 2020-21 campaign isn’t just a flash in the pan.
After a wretched run including four wooden spoon finishes in five seasons, the Mariners were one of the revelations of the past campaign as Alen Stajcic guided them to a third-place finish and a first finals appearance since 2014.
The pride of that achievement was dampened somewhat by a 2-0 loss to Macarthur in the finals and the unexpected exit of Stajcic just days later.
Montgomery, a former Mariners player who has been in pivotal role with the club’s academy in bringing talent including Alou Kuol, Dan Hall, Jordan Smylie and Max Balard into the first team, was appointed as Stajcic’s replacement in July.
Having completed his UEFA Pro Licence coaching certificate during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Mariners job will be the first senior coaching role for Montgomery, who made more than 300 appearances for Sheffield United during his playing career.
However, the Englishman is undaunted at building on Stajcic’s transformative work at the Mariners, arguing it gives him a platform to take the club back to their glory days in the late 2000s and early 2010s when they won the premiers plate twice and the 2013 grand final.
“When you’re a coach you don’t want to take away the good things that they had last year and that was that togetherness and team spirit, but I want to play an exciting, attacking brand of football,” Montgomery told AAP.
“Looking at the back players that we had last year, (Mark) Birighetti is a fantastic goalkeeper, Kai Rowles, Ruon Tongyik, young players – Lewis Miller, Dan Hall and a few others coming through.
“In front of that I think it’s no surprise that we were one of the lowest scorers in the league.
“That’s one area, when you look at performance last season, is we need to score more goals and if you score goals you’ve got an opportunity to win games of football.
“That’s one thing I’ve been working really hard on.
“For me it’s an opportunity to build on last season and hopefully push the club on for the future.”
Smylie is one of several players who exited Gosford in the off-season, along with Germany-bound Kuol, attacking midfielder Danny De Silva, Socceroos hopeful Gianni Stensness and fullback Jack Clisby.
Montgomery has recruited French attacking player Beni Nkololo and experienced German Nicolai Muller, after the midfielder’s Western Sydney Wanderers exit, while New Zealand international Storm Roux returns to the club.
Costa Rica international Marco Urena has signed a new two-year deal after impressing in his debut campaign in Australia last season.
“I doubt the league will be harder this season, which is why I’ve been working really hard to put together a squad, which, in my eyes, is going to be competitive against everybody in the league,” Montgomery said.
“Look at the visa players. Marcos Urena, he’s played in World Cups, top striker and I think everybody saw that towards the second part of the season when he got fit.
“Nikolai, top quality player, top human as well. Experienced, he’s played in the Bundesliga and played international as well.
“For us to manage to get players of that calibre to come to the Mariners, they’re coming for the love of playing football
“We don’t have the luxury of offering the salaries elsewhere so the fact they came here … I spoke to them and explained my vision of this season and for the club moving forward and they’ve bought into it straight away.”