Central Coast Mariners fired yet another warning shot to the rest of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW Men's competition with a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Premiership favourites Marconi Stallions at Bossley Park on Sunday.
The young Mariners led 3-0 at halftime and extended their winning streak to four matches, showing just why they've emerged as a serious threat for Premiership honours.
Fellow A-League academy side Western Sydney Wanderers also got their campaign back on track with a tough 4-3 win at Mt Druitt, while in other matches, Northern Tigers and Hills played a one-all draw; St George beat Blacktown Spartans 3-1; Spirit FC humbled Macarthur 4-0; Mounties shocked North Shore Mariners 5-2 and Bankstown Berries scored a 1-0 win over Bankstown City in the Bankstown derby.
Match of the Round
Marconi Stallions 1 Central Coast Mariners 3, Marconi Stadium
Central Coast Mariners fired yet another warning shot to the rest of the PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's competition with a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Premiership favourites Marconi Stallions at Bossley Park on Sunday.
Lachlan Wales, Duncan Stewart and Brenton Fox scored for the victors, while Sean Rooney pulled one back for the vanquished.
Central Coast entered the game as the hottest team in the competition, scoring 15 goals in their last three matches and conceding none. But the trip to Bossley Park was considered to be one fraught with danger. One where a talented and experienced Stallions lineup had the potential to give the youngsters their sternest test yet - if not something of a footballing lesson.
But it wasn't to be and instead, the apprentices schooled the masters.
Hoping for a strong start, Marconi were shocked as Mariners' dynamo Lachlan Wales struck home the opener after a nice buildup down the right flank. The clock had barely ticked past one minute of playing time and already the youngsters were one goal ahead.
The goal stunned Marconi but this is the kind of thing the Mariners have been doing for the past month or so, playing with skill, speed and precision and most importantly of all, finishing their chances.
Marconi had an opportunity to equalise in the third minute but Mirjan Pavlovic's touch let him down and the opportunity went begging.
In the 16th minute Marconi's Judah Cleur floated in a nice cross for Sean Rooney who tried to chest the ball to Pavlovic. But again, the opportunity was lost and again Marconi came up empty handed.
A minute later, Wales threaded a perfect pass to Fox whose low cross was cut out by the Sky Blues' defence just in the nick of time. The classy Mariners Number 7 was causing the Stallions plenty of grief with his skill and tenacity in the midfield.
In the 22nd minute Cleur had perhaps the Stallions' best chance of the half, but an unforgiving bounce from a lovely Christopher Nunes cross saw his effort sail over the bar.
Both sides had their moments but for a period of around 15 minutes Marconi dominated possession and played some excellent football. The Stallions also created plenty of half-chances that on another day might have bore some fruit. But not today. This ended up being the Mariners' day.
And just on the half hour mark the visitors showed why it was their day when Duncan Stewart extended their lead to 2-0. A perfect one-two between Wales and the impressive Shelford Dais saw the powerful yet nimble right back send in the perfect low cross for Stewart to tap home from close range.
Perfect buildup. Perfect finish. Two-nil Mariners.
But the young guns weren't finished and just six minutes shy of the break, sharpshooter Brenton Fox slotted home to extend his side's lead to 3-0. The Stallions didn't know what had hit them.
The sanctuary of the dressing sheds couldn't come quick enough for Marconi, who knew they faced an uphill battle to close the gap in the second half.
But the respite provided by the halftime break didn't last long as Cenral Coast laid siege on the Marconi goal immediately after the restart, creating a few chances but not quite adding the finishing touch.
The Mariners' pace and precision was a joy to watch, and at times exhibition-like, but their inability to take advantage of their chances gave the Stallions some confidence.
The longer the score stayed at 3-0, the more confident the home side became. And slowly the Sky Blues played their way back into the game, with Rooney and Pavlovic at the forefront of an unlikely comeback.
Rooney missed a golden opportunity to pull one back in the 54th minute, his usually reliable radar strangely amiss.
Then Mariners goalkeeper Adam Pearce pulled off a miracle save from close range in the 64th minute. Three minutes later Rooney did what he does best, and struck home a free kick virtually from the goalline.
Marconi 1 Mariners 3. Was this the beginning of a comeback?
Marconi took the game to the Mariners and four minutes later Pearce showed his brilliance yet again, this time denying Pavlovic. The young gloveman jilted Pavlovic again in the 81st minute, forcing the Stallions' Number 7 to look on in dismay as he stopped a fair effort from long range.
In the end, the Mariners proved to be up to the task and held on for a comfortable 3-1 victory.
As expected, Mariners coach Ben Cahn was delighted with his side's performance, and paid tribute to their growing maturity.
"Early on in the year we were very fragile and we would have lost this game," Cahn told Football NSW. "Maybe we didn't play as nicely as we did earlier in the year but we've certainly grown a lot and shown really good maturity levels in the last few weeks.
"It's been a constant evolution. I completely believe in these young players but for them it was a harsh five or six games early on but we kept drumming home the same messages, we slightly adapted the playing style at times to suit this league, but we keep believing in what we do and hopefully it will continue.
"Coming away to a side on top of the league - big club, good players - that's a really big result for us."
When asked to name his standouts, Cahn replied: "It was a hungry team performance. Nobody was shy of their responsibilities but you have to keep looking at Duncan Stewart and Brenton Fox who are now both among the top three goalscorers in the league. You could name them all. They all played well today."
Meanwhile, Marconi coach Peter Tsekenis said that despite the loss, there were positives to emerge from the game.
"I think we got caught early by a very good Central Coast team," Tsekenis told Football NSW. "It's obvious we've got some deficiencies in defence, we've been leaking a lot of goals in the last month or so.
"There's a few deficiencies there and hopefully we can go back to training and really sort them out because they did hurt us today early. We had a lot of possession in the game, especially in the second half and we conceded three goals too easily for my liking. So that has to be rectified."
Tsekenis said that he'd heard a lot about the young Mariners team and wasn't surprised by the way they played.
"They're a very fluent, young, vibrant side and as they showed today they start off very early, very bright. I knew they were going to do that and I knew that we needed to try to control the tempo of the game early and get on top of them early but we didn't and we paid the price."
When asked what positives emerged from the loss, Tsekenis replied: "The positive thing for me is that I've seen some deficiencies that we've got to sort out pretty quickly. Also, we didn't give up and we totally dominated the second half but they probably deserved the win."
Marconi Stallions 1 (Sean Rooney) Central Coast Mariners 3 (Lachlan Wales, Brenton Fox, Duncan Stewart)
Sunday 4 June 2017
Referee: Adam Susz
Assistant Referees: Nathan Mcorist, Nathan Anderson
Marconi Stallions: 1. Nenad Vekic (GK), 4. Dhari Alsaad (2. Stefan Dubocanin), 5. Michael Beauchamp, 19. Eros Bergamin (25. Sam Burfoot 75'), 12. Judah Cleur, 10. Marko Jesic (11. Sam Perre 65'), 23. Christopher Nunes, 7. Mirjan Pavlovic, 14. Peter Pelekanos, 8. Sean Rooney, 22. Brandon Vella
Unused Subs: 21. Kristian Sekutkoski, 40. Billy Nunes
Yellow Cards: 23. Christopher Nunes 56'
Coach: Peter Tsekenis
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Adam Pearce (GK), 2. Shelford Dais, 6. James Enticknap (4. Reece Papadimitrios), 9. Brenton Fox (11. Peter Kekeris 82'), 3. Michael Glassock, 12. Jack Kuipers, 8. Thomas Lyons, 16. Gianni Stensness, 10. Duncan Stewart (15. Yerasimakis Petratos 45'), 7. Lachlan Wales, 18. Steve Whyte
Unused Subs: 20. Aidan Munford, 5. Charles William
Yellow Cards: 9. Brenton Fox 79', 1. Adam Pearce 90+2
Coach: Ben Cahn
Northern Tigers 1 Hills Brumbies 1, North Turramurra Recreation Area
In a tale of two halves, Northern Tigers and Hills Brumbies played a one-all draw at North Turramurra on Saturday.
The Tigers opened the scoring through 17-year-old striker Jordan Smylie with the last kick of the first half, while Nick Dimitriadis equalised for Hills in the 51st minute.
"In a classic tale of two halves, we were better in the first half and they (Brumbies) were better in the second half," Tigers coach Mark McCormick told Football NSW. "So I think in the end a draw was a fair result."
McCormick added that the game was a good battle - tactical and interesting, with both teams giving their all.
"With a little bit of luck it could've gone either way. Their goalkeeper made a fantastic save in the first half and our goalkeeper made a great save in the second half to keep the score level at 1-1."
McCormick was impressed with his side's first half, where they kept the ball well and created chances. But that changed in the second half, when Hills caused the home side plenty of grief on the counter attack.
Despite that, McCormick was impressed by his young side's performance.
"What impressed me was the attitude of our players and how hard they worked. It was a good learning opportunity for our boys," he said.
"Hills have some good players and (coach) Dan (Sheppard) has done a good job with them. They have a really strong team spirit there; they've come up (from PS4 NPL 3) and they've got some boys who play futsal together so that keeps them close. Team spirit takes you a long way."
The Tigers have been one of the form sides in the competition and wins against Premiership favourites Western Sydney Wanderers and Marconi have proved that they're quite capable of of making a serious challenge for the title.
But despite their good form and nods of approval from around the league, McCormick refuses to get too carried away.
"It's halfway through the season and we've not achieved anything yet," McCormick said. "And there's a lot of really good teams in the competition. If we want to make the playoffs we're going to have to be at our best over the next 13 weeks. And while we're really excited we're not going to get carried away.
Meanwhile, Brumbies coach Dan Sheppard agreed with McCormick and said a draw was probably a fair result.
"We were probably more disappointed than the Tigers because we had the best chance of the game," Sheppard told Football NSW. "But it was a pretty good football game and very competitive. Tigers also played far more the sort of football I expected from (PS4) NPL 2 sides, not just the long ball rubbish we've been coming up against for a long time."
When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Sheppard replied: "That we were able to work out and deal with the tactical challenge of the game. Northern Tigers play a different formation which can be a little bit confusing. It's unusual and very difficult but we managed to work it out and combat it, which was impressive."
Sheppard said there were a few standouts in what was essentially a good team performance, including Bradley Robertson, Eoin Montford, Josh Stancic, Nick Dimitriadis and Matias Toro Suazo.
Blacktown Spartans 1 St George 3 Blacktown Football Park
St George condemned Blacktown Spartans to their fifth consecutive defeat with a decisive 3-1 victory at Blacktown Football Park on Saturday.
Juan Carlos Romero scored two and Nico Paras grabbed one to give Saints a commanding 3-0 lead at halftime, while Alex Boyadijan scored a late consolation goal for the home side.
Spartans are currently struggling for numbers due to suspensions, injuries and a lack of depth, and the team's recent run of losses has tipped them perilously close to the foot of the ladder.
"We're a young team and we're going to go through a bit of a hard time now," Spartans coach Luis Contigiani told Football NSW. "It's getting tough but we're just going to have to keep working hard and hoping and praying that things will change."
Meanwhile, Saints coach Terry Palapanis was pleased with his side's performance.
"It was a fashionable win," Palapanis told Football NSW. "We were understrength but still had enough quality to get the win. We were 3-0 up at halftime and were the better side. We actually played better in the second half and probably had around 70 per cent possession. We could've scored more."
Palapanis added that when the Spartans scored their goal in the 77th minute, he was worried that "things might get a bit tricky".
"We fell away after they scored but managed to hold on for the win. I think we're playing better as the season progresses. Our passes are sticking, the rotations are working, our combinations are stronger. And as I've said before, we have a knack for scoring goals."
Apart from Spanish import Romero, whose two goals takes his total to 10 for the season, and Paras, Saints performed well collectively, with the backline particularly impressive.
Ali Nasreddine was composed at left back while the makeshift pairing of Jonathan Kontalis (in for the suspended Daniel Mitwali) and Jacob Bandur, performed well in a reshuffled backline.
While they couldn't keep their first clean sheet of the season, Saints should be pleased that it wasn't until late in the game that they conceded.
The win sees St George sitting in second equal place on the table alongside Northern Tigers and Western Sydney Wanderers.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 3 Western Sydney Wanderers 4, Popondetta Park
Western Sydney Wanderers returned to the winners' circle with a courageous 4-3 victory over Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park on Saturday night.
Mathieu Cordier, Emmanuel Gonzalez, Tate Russell and Rami Najjarine found the net for the Wanderers, while Kuag Reec, Alex Vlismas and Brian Griffin-Colls scored for Rangers.
Mt Druitt led 3-1 at halftime but the young Wanderers showed tremendous courage to steal the spoils in the 90th minute.
The win was a timely one for the young Western Sydney side, who hadn't just suffered three losses in their last four games, but had also lost experienced stars Mario Shabow and Liam Youlley; while Abraham Majok and Keanu Baccus are unavailable due to the upcoming A-League preseason.
"The win was definitely pleasing because we've had a tough month," Wanderers coach Trevor Morgan told Football NSW. "So to see them fight and win one was good.
"Whether it was Mt Druitt playing really well or us not defending so well, the halftime score of 3-1 was fair. We didn't make much of the few chances we created in the first half. I think we just picked it up a gear in the second half and this time we were able to convert enough chances to get a result.
"In other games we've actually played reasonably well and haven't got anything, but this one we didn't play all that much better but the chances fell for us and we converted.
"Everyone's interested in the end product and yesterday the boys were able to produce that and I guess the challenge is to find from that what we need to do to be more successful more often.
"I'm pleased for the boys because I don't think we've played all that badly over the past month but we've had a lot of results that have been poor so it was nice for them to go home with a smile on their faces and they know they had to work for it. It certainly wasn't easy, particularly the situation we found ourselves in at halftime. We had to do something pretty special to get back in the game."
Morgan added that he gave his side a spray at halftime, challenging particular players to carry out their roles at the expected level. The young Wanderers responded perfectly.
When asked who impressed him the most, Morgan was reluctant to single out individuals.
"I'm not a big fan of favouring individuals because if you lose you always lose together and when one guy scores a goal and you win, it's usually not just him on his own who's responsible for the result.
"It was a little lift by the boys in the second half above the first half and that was good enough for us."
Meanwhile, Mt Druitt assistant coach Stewart Montgomery was gutted by the result but content with the performance, especially in the first 45 minutes.
"It was definitely a game of two halves and the first half was probably the best we've played all year," Montgomery told Football NSW.
"We were excellent. We controlled the tempo of the match; we out-possessed the Wanderers, which is not something many teams do; we dominated play and created opportunities and limited them to shots from outside the box. We took our chances and could've had a few more goals in the first half.
"We were really in a wonderful position at halftime and we asked the boys to keep doing what they were doing and to be ready in the second half because we knew that (Wanderers coach) Trevor (Morgan) had given his team a bit of a rev up at the break.
"Wanderers came out a completely different side in the secind half. They changed their press, they overloaded in our half and didn't let us play out. It took us a while to come to terms with that.
"The goals that we conceded were really disappointing, they were all on transition, they all came down through the flanks and cut backs. That's something we've got to deal with. Wanderers are always going to get on the outside of you, they're always going to make those little runs behind so you've got to expect that. We need to protect the six yard box better than we did."
Despite the last-gasp defeat, Montgomery said there were many positives to come out of the game, especially in the first half, where his side's buildup, possession and execution were excellent.
"We've got a really good record against Wanderers in the competition but we really let them back in the game unfortunately."
Despite the setback, Mt Druitt sit in fourth-equal place on the ladder alongside Hills Brumbies; while Western Sydney are in equal-second with Northern Tigers and St George.
Bankstown Berries 1 Bankstown City 0, The Crest Athletic Centre
Bankstown Berries' Andreas Vais played the role of hero and villain when he scored the match-winner against local rivals Bankstown City before being sent off after receiving his second yellow card.
Vais's goal came in the 50th minute and he received his marching orders seven minutes later, but somehow the Berries hung on courageously to earn a much-needed three points.
In a match critical to both sides, Berries' player coach Perry Moustakas said he was proud of his young team's courage and character.
"We've had a lot of 1-0 results this season which shows a lot about our character and I'm very happy we got another 1-0 result against Bankstown," Moustakas told Football NSW.
"This season has been up and down for us and our biggest problem has been inconsistency. We've got a lot of kids who are starting to get a run in first grade, there's a lot of players who haven't played first grade before.
"The bond we have between each other is impressive. It's something we've had all season. We've had a lot of football over the last two weeks and we were playing with 10 men for the last half an hour and the effort from the boys was fantastic. Tired legs, cramping up, and Bankstown's best chance didn't come until the last minute, which again, I was very happy with."
Meanwhile, Lions coach Mile Todoroski was happy with his side's performance, but was left to rue one mistake that led to the Berries' winner.
"Unfortunately we did just one single mistake and gave them a present," Todoroski told Football NSW. "They accepted the present and scored the goal and made things very, very difficult for us."
Todoroski added that his side dominated the game but still struggled to create any goal-scoring opportunities.
"Our only real chance was in the last minute of the game, when we tried to score from close range but didn't. So that's that and we lose again. What can you do?
"But I'm very happy with how the boys perform, how they played, how they're looking like a team wanting to do something for first time in 10 weeks. How we play, how we fight, how we approach the game, was really serious and we're starting to look like a real team. Before it was some period good and some period bad, now (against Berries) all game on very good level. Not good football but very strong, very competitive."
Spirit FC 4 Macarthur Rams 0, Valntine Sports Park
Spirit FC bounced back from last week's 4-0 thrashing to Central Coast with a 4-0 victory of their own against Macarthur Rams at Valentine Sports Park on Saturday.
Newcomer and former Sydney United 58 midfielder Andre' Schroeder scored two goals while Michael Streeter and Andre' Carle grabbed one apiece.
The win was a timely one for a Spirit side that has struggled so far this season. But despite their lowly standing on the table, they're still in the mix for the big games at the end of the season.
Earlier in the week Spirit coach David Perkovic said the beginning of the second round would give his side an opportunity to set the reset button and to get their season back on track.
The win over the Rams provided the perfect start.
"We've had our midseason review and we've had to address a few things," Perkovic told Football NSW. "We still have a lot of belief in ourslves and we're looking at this weekend as a fresh start."
Perkovic said that both teams were unsettled in the early stages of the match but he felt that his side were more effective with turning their possession into goal-scoring opportunities.
"I felt we managed the game without the ball as well, and apart from a shot from near halfway Macarthur didn't have a shot on target in the whole first half," Perkovic said.
Michael Streeter opened the scoring from a set piece and Spirit led 1-0 at halftime. Macarthur's Danny Lazarevski received a red card and Spirit's confidence soared as the game progressed. Schroeder grabbed the second and from there, Perkovic felt frustration got the better of the opposition.
"Scoring first gave the team a lot of confidence and in the second half we managed to get a second goal and I felt that from that point on the opposition got quite frustrated," Perkovic said. "From that point it was just about game management - not risking too much but at the same time shifting them around a bit to make them tired and I think that's the reason why we were able to score a further two goals."
When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Perkovic replied: "Just how we were able to manage the game with and without the ball. Obviously we haven't been performing too well of late and frustration creeps in quickly so I was pleased that we didn't panic when we didn't have the ball, especially as the game wore on. We got more and more comfortable and didn't rush to get forward too quickly.
"Defensively we were very sound, everything they threw at us we managed well. It was good to keep a clean sheet and to get some goals."
Perkovic praised his backline for a "fantastic" performance and also gave newcomer Schroeder a gold star for his contribution, both with the ball and without.
Meanwhile, Macarthur coach Eddie Briscoe was devastated by the result.
"It was disgraceful and we got done," Briscoe told Football NSW. "It was just a battle and we had a man sent off in the second half and from then it was a case of backs against the wall. It was four but it could have been eight or nine in the end. Very disappointing and overall it wasn't a great night to be fair."
Despite the heavy defeat, Briscoe was pleased with the form of newcomers Lachie Reus and Blake McGinn, who "did a job for me so they'll grow as the season goes on", but the Rams' mentor also suggested that his side needed to get back to basics in order to rejuvenate their season.
"We're missing the one per centers mate," he said. "All the games we were winning, and fighting and chasing, I think we believe we're a good team now and we've lost all the simple things, doing the one per centers that get us through that period. We've got to get back to doing that again.
"But we tried, we kept working and we'll stay positive and keep moving forward. That's all we can do."
Mounties Wanderers 5 North Shore Mariners 2, Valentine Sports Park
Tai Smith celebrated his debut for Mounties Wanderers with a hat-trick in his side's shock 5-2 victory over North Shore Mariners at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday.
Michael Cklamovski and young Hamish Callaghan added one goal apiece while Chris Lindsay and Scott Tonkin scored for the Mariners.
Fresh from last week's 2-1 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers, North Shore's setback was unexpected but the difference proved to be Mounties' ability to finish their opportunities.
"We were structured well and we finally scored some goals and while it could've been more, it was very good," Mounties coach Lee Sterrey told Football NSW.
"We also signed Tai Smith from Fraser Park last week, and it was good to see him score a hat-trick in his first game for us. He's a Number 9 who scored 11 goals in 12 games at Fraser and he's got a good attitude. He's a good lad."
Sterrey was impressed with his side's collective performance, and while some players stood out more than others, the experienced coach said everyone played well. The only disappointment, Sterrey said, was allowing North Shore to score at 3-0 and then again at 4-1. lapses that could have been costly.
"They scored within 60 seconds and two minutes on both occasions, which was disappointing from a concentration perspective. But we could've scored 10 or 12 goals today, had we converted every chance.
"I was really happy about our character, they had to really step it up and they were nothing like the side that played the first half against Hills last week. I just made the boys aware that we're in one of the strongest clubs in the league and if they want to play finals football, this was Game 1 of the second half of the season and there's still another lap to go. We just had to put our best foot forward."
Mounties are still without ace playmaker Neftali Gonzalez, who could be sidelined for up to six weeks. While his loss is a huge blow to the side, Sterrey was pleased to get the win without him.
"We wanted to win without Nefta," Sterrey said. "We wanted to show we're still a good football side without him, so it was pleasing to show we're not a one-man band. The performance today was really good, really positive."
-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter