Hyundai A-League season preview: Central Coast

There’s a different feel around the Mariners. Tony Walmsley’s men are set to play a more entertaining, expansive brand of football as the club recalibrates its image: ‘Yes, we’re still battlers, but we’re also entertainers’ is the feeling on the Coast. Can this usher in a new era of success?

The Mariners didn’t have much success with their imports last season, with Richard Vernes, Malick Mane and Kim Seung-yong struggling to produce the goods.

With the exception of Roy O’Donovan, the club has recruited mostly Australian players and Walmsley will be hoping this home-grown approach and a talented crop of youngsters will pay dividends this season and long-term.

Walmsley has had a full-preseason at the helm to put his stamp on the squad. They’ve been running sand hills and doing double sessions in chilly Canberra. So they should be fit enough and will no doubt have bonded well as a group.

But will it reap success? This proud club will see Season 11 of the Hyundai A-League as one of opportunity as rebuilding towards the competition summit begins.

Click here for Central Coast Mariners FC's official site

THE BURNING QUESTIONS

  • Can they turn Gosford into a fortress again?
  • Where will the goals come from?
  • Will Fabio Ferreira have the X-factor again this season?
  • Will Nick Fitzgerald carry on his excellent form?

LESSONS LEARNT FROM LAST SEASON 

  • Have more faith in home-based heroes
  • Tactical approach needs to evolve

Mariners players celebrate Nick Montgomery's stoppage-time strike.

ROAD AHEAD

The Mariners kick-off their season at home to Perth, the first of three big home games over the first five rounds including a blockbuster against Sydney FC in round 4.

It’s going to be a cracking festive period for the Mariners, which includes a bumper Boxing Day clash against the Sky Blues in Sydney, while the club has won back their coveted New Year’s Eve fixture in Gosford, taking on Wellington Phoenix to bring down the curtain on 2015.

A huge last month of the season sees them play Sydney FC, the Wanderers, Victory and the Jets means it’s a daunting finish in the run-up to the finals.

EXPECTED STRENGTHS

  • An experienced spine: Liam Reddy in goals, Eddy Bosnar at centre-back, Nick Montgomery in midfield and striker Roy O’Donovan are leaders.
  • Lowered expectations: That’s just the way the club likes it.

POTENTIAL WEAKNESS

  • Home woes: usually so hard to beat on their home turf, the Mariners only won five of their 13 home matches last season, losing six. If that doesn’t improve, either will their ladder position.
  • Lack of genuine goal-scorer: From 27 games last season, the Mariners scored just 26 goals, the second worst attack in the Hyundai A-League. O’Donovan’s signing may help but more will be needed from Fabio Ferreira, Nick Fitzgerald and Mitch Austin.

Mitch Austin - joined Central Coast Mariners

TACTICAL APPROACH

Walmsley is likely to adapt a 4-3-3 formation, which looks to best serve the players at his disposal. O’Donovan should lead the line, flanked by the likes of Fabio Ferreria, Mitch Austin and the rising star Nick Fitzgerald.

Skipper Nick Montgomery will anchor the midfield, with youth likely to be deployed around him. Anthony Caceres will hope to go to another level this season, while big things are expected from youngster Liam Rose.

The defence appears pretty settled with Storm Roux, Eddy Bosnar, Josh Rose, Jacob Poscoliero and new recruit Harry Ashcroft all solid options.

The Mariners are likely to set-up with a solid defensive base, pressing when they can and then look to hit on the transition using the pace of Ferreira and Austin in wide areas.

BREAKOUT STAR(S)

  • Daniel Heffernan: He might be 28 but Heffernan is getting his first crack in the A-League after starring for PS4 NPL Victoria club Heidelberg United. A powerfully-built attacker, Heffernan could be a real handful for opposition defences.
  • Michael Neill: Looked to be emerging as a real prospect for the club last season until injury curtailed the youngster, restricting him to just eight appearances. But with a full off-season under his belt, this could be Neill’s year.

Daniel Heffernan

SOCIAL MEDIA STAR

Mitch Austin - @mitchaustin10