Graham Arnold believes teams are still easing their way into the season after watching his Mariners grind out a 1-0 win over Melbourne Heart.
Central Coast coach Graham Arnold believes teams are still easing their way into the Hyundai A-League season after watching his Mariners grind out a 1-0 win over Melbourne Heart on Sunday.
Pedj Bojic's well-worked free-kick saw the Mariners edge Heart in an uninspiring contest at AAMI Park.
Both teams struggled to create chances throughout the 90 minutes, something Arnold attributed to clubs still searching for maximum intensity after what is one of the longest off-seasons in world football.
"It takes a little bit of time to get going in the A-League at the start of the season with so much time off," he said.
"You can work as hard as you like during pre-season and we played more games in pre-season than what we've done in the past.
"We played more games against A-League teams than what we've done in the past, but you can't replicate the pressure side of things, you can't replicate the intensity of what comes along come competition time.
"Both teams looked a little bit rusty. There were some good patches of play but some average patches as well; (it) took a nice free-kick to get us the points."
Josip Tadic missed Heart's only gilt-edged chance of the match, while Richard Garcia also threatened, but the hosts were largely shut out of the contest by the ruthless Mariners, a major positive for the visiting coach.
"I was very happy again with our defensive structure," Arnold said.
"We work hard on our defence, we didn't give too much away. Three clean sheets in four games, our defence is strong, we've just got to keep working and keep working hard on our attacking shape."
While Arnold had no complaints about his team's compact, organised approach, he knows there is still work to do in the attacking third of the field if the club from Gosford are to challenge for honours again in 2012/13.
"We've changed our system to suit the personnel that we've got, so it's taking a little bit of time to get going forward," he said.
"If you're defensively strong it builds confidence, it gives you ... the opportunity to stay in the game.
"I feel our build up is quite good, I'm quite happy with that.
"Our transition from defence into attack is letting us down at the moment. We're being a little bit negative when we win the ball at the back.
"What we were good at (last season) was breaking forward with the ball and the first pass going forward, moving forward as a unit.
"Sometimes now, at the moment, it's like the first pass will go forward and the second will go back."