Arnold demands more

Central Coast Mariners boss Graham Arnold says his players must maintain a high standard throughout 90 minutes after the league-leaders turned in contrasting performances either side of the interval during their 1-0 win over Sydney FC.

Central Coast Mariners boss Graham Arnold says his players must maintain a high standard throughout 90 minutes after the league-leaders turned in contrasting performances either side of the interval during their 1-0 win over Sydney FC.

The victory allowed the Mariners to stretch their lead at the top to an impressive eight-point margin with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Heart both held to 1-1 draws on the road.

It could have been the same scenario for the Mariners who allowed Sydney FC back into the contest with a relatively flat second half following a dynamic showing in the opening stanza.

"The second half showed we have to be better," said Arnold. "As we say to the players 'don't look at the table'. We have to play every game on its merits."

"Whether it was down to the emotion and effort that we put in against Melbourne Victory… we were a bit flat in the second half. We had the opportunities for 2-0 and to kill Sydney off but we kept them in the game. Our sloppiness gave them chances."

Discontent as he was with the second period, Arnold was effusive in his praise for the first-half showing of his charges.

A goal after just nine minutes from Oliver Bozanic, celebrating his 23rd birthday, could easily have precipitated a goal avalanche before the break.

Firstly Bernie Ibisi, and then Patrick Zwaanswijk on two occasions, narrowly failed to extend the margin, while at the other end goalkeeper Matt Ryan remained a spectator.

"In the first half I thought was perfect football from us," said Arnold. "They had no chance. They couldn't get near us."

"At half-time I demanded a second half like the first. If we didn't do that we would give them oxygen."

"We had chances to kill the game off. The save [Liam] Reddy made off Bernie in the second half was a fantastic save but it is always dangerous at 1-0."

"We know how to win playing good football, but we also know how to win if we are having an off day."

John Hutchinson continued to fill the void in midfield left by the absence of Rostyn Griffiths, and the veteran, who on Wednesday featured in his 300th National League match, was in outstanding form with his distribution and positional sense.

"The secret to us when we are good is the trio of Patrick [Zwaanswijk], [Alex] Wilkinson and the holding midfielder, whether it is Rostyn or Hutchinson," said Arnold. "If they are on song, we are too hard to break down."

The match marked the first of consecutive derbies for the Mariners who will host Newcastle Jets next Saturday.

The league leaders will undoubtedly start as favourites against the erratic Jets but the size of the odds depend on which Mariners side turns up, according to skipper Zwaanswijk.

"We lost the ball way too easily," he said. "We need to keep pressure on the ball and if we do that like we did for the first 40 minutes we are an unbeatable team. If we don't do that we are just an average team."