Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold believes decisions in the first five minutes of the F3 Derby cost his team the match.
Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has praised his side's performance despite being beaten 2-1 by the Newcastle Jets in a gripping F3 derby at Hunter Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Mariners arguably had the better of play but trailed 2-0 after the hour mark due to an early penalty call against midfielder Michael McGlinchey and a goal to Newcastle marquee Emile Heskey.
A goal to substitute Bernie Ibini in the 71st minute swung the momentum back in the Central Coast's favour and they almost snatched an equaliser deep into injury time when Patrick Zwaanswijk headed a long ball into the net only to be ruled offside.
Arnold said he had not seen a replay of the offside decision after the match so could not comment on it but he questioned the penalty awarded in just the fifth minute when McGlinchey felled Heskey in the box.
"I haven't seen the one at the end but I thought the first one - well I just thought overall it was a pretty average performance from the ref," Arnold said.
"I will probably get called a whinger as normal but the three incidents that happened in the first five minutes I thought turned the match.
"I think McGlinchey weighs 67 kilos and Emile Heskey weighs 100. That says enough. Mikey might have been doing some extra weights in the gym.
"But those things happen. Penalties are disappointing but penalties come and go. You get good decisions and bad decisions throughout the year.
"Yeah we are disappointed now but I said to the players I judge their performance and I thought their performance was excellent today."
Jets coach Gary van Egmond conceded after the match that the Central Coast was the better team in the derby and Arnold agreed praising his side's performance.
"There was only one team out there playing football and that was us," Arnold said.
"As I said to the boys at half-time you have 45 minutes to turn it around and you don't have to do anything differently. Just keep playing the same way you are playing and you get yourselves right back into the game.
"Their (the Jets) second goal was disappointing - it was a bit soft.
"(It was) a great run by the kid Virgili, fantastic action and a good run by him but it was a bit soft.
"But overall it was about the performance away from home and I thought it was a fantastic performance from the boys today.
"A good derby, plenty of action and I was very happy with our performance overall."
It was the first loss for the Mariners this season but they remain in the top half of the Hyundai A-League table and Arnold said he has been buoyed by the start to the 2012/13 campaign.
"We don't have an easy start to the season. We only have two home games in our first seven games," he said.
"So as long as we pick up some points early on because we have a lot of home games at the end of the season and we are very strong at home.
"Our combination and our movement was first class today. So if we continue to play like that, and we will do, I can't see why we won't be successful again this year."