Can the Mariners continue their unlikely run to the finals when they host Melbourne City on Sunday afternoon?
Central Coast have been one of the surprise packets of the season and go into Round 22 just four points outside the top six.
Although they are faced with a formidable opponent in Melbourne City this fixture won’t hold any fear for them as they have been quite competitive the two times they have played so far.
The Mariners picked up a point when drawing 1-1 in the F3 Derby against Newcastle last week while Melbourne City are coming off a 3-1 loss to Sydney FC.
Paul Okon’s side could have secured all three points last week against Newcastle.
Absorbing a heap of pressure early on, the Mariners then managed to level the scores and clearly had the better of the running in the second half.
Finishing has been a big part of their problem this season though with their 24 goals only better than Adelaide’s 17 in the competition.
BRILLIANCE NOT ENOUGH
How good were Melbourne City for most of that first half against Sydney FC?
Creating chance upon chance and sending shots firing left, right and centre at Danny Vukovic, it appeared only a matter of time before City would score but it was Sydney who threw a sucker punch, courtesy of a penalty, to get the opener.
Equalizing through Nick Fitzgerald soon after, City had the better of play before a brain explosion from Manny Muscat reduced them to 10 men. As gallant as they were after that it was going to near impossible to stop Sydney FC from scoring and eventually it was 3-1 to the visitors.
There was plenty to like about their effort though, in particular Fitzgerald’s contribution which saw him trouble the Sky Blues back four for most of the night. A similar performance here will go a long way to securing the three points.
Melbourne City has won four of the past five meetings between the sides including their last match-up which resulted in a 2-1 win.
The Mariners had a player sent off that day while earlier in the season Central Coast were unlucky not to secure all three points, with a Bruno Fornaroli penalty rescuing a point for the visitors in injury time.
Although Central Coast don’t have a great recent record against City, they have the wood on them at this venue where Melbourne has only won once in the past nine fixtures.
We think Melbourne City are starting to come good and that could spell danger signs for the Mariners.
The level of enthusiasm and commitment shown last week against Sydney FC had been lacking since the early part of the campaign, so it could be a sign that caretaker coach Michael Valkanis has finally found the key to his side.
If they are to get over the feisty Mariners then they will have to improve their play on the road.
City is ranked fifth in terms of points secured on away fixtures courtesy of three wins, three draws and four losses.
A deeper look at the stats shows they are only behind Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory when it comes to their goal difference (+4) on the road, while their 13 goals conceded away is also ranked third behind the two tear away leaders.
For all the improvement the Mariners have shown they are still the worst home team in the competition, securing 10 points from 10 games in front of their own fans.
If they are any hope here they need to get quality service to Roy O’Donovan who is clearly their leading scorer for the term with 10 goals. Give him half a sniff and he is capable of netting a few goals easily, however, it’s getting it to him in the right spot that is the problem.
THE TIP: MELBOURNE CITY
TOTAL GOALS OVER/UNDER 3.5: OVER 3.5 – the total has reached four or more goals in four of the past five clashes between the sides
TO SCORE A GOAL: TIM CAHILL – the star Socceroo has scored three goals in two games against the Central Coast