Cox strikes late as Wanderers snatch draw against the Mariners
Simon Cox has come off the bench to snatch a late 1-1 draw for finals chasing Western Sydney Wanderers against Central Coast Mariners at a wet Gosford on Monday night.
The Wanderers’ top six hopes looked like suffering a major blow when Milan Duric had the Mariners in front early in the second half.
But Cox used all his experience and goal-poaching pedigree to head in an equaliser two minutes from the end to secure what could be a priceless point for Jean-Paul de Marigny’s side.
While the Wanderers will have wanted all three points from this clash, they will be relieved to take the draw and edge closer to a spot in the Finals Series.
It was a contest played at a great tempo, with both sides hitting the woodwork in an entertaining and open first half.
Duric struck the crossbar with a trademark long-range effort, while Mohamed Adam was also denied by the woodwork just before the break.
The free-flowing nature of the contest continued in the second half, with Duric giving the Mariners a deserved lead before Cox’s late show.
The result extends Central Coast’s winless run to 13 games and officially confirms the wooden spoon for a fourth time in the last five seasons.
Meanwhile, the Wanderers remain in ninth spot, four points behind sixth place Adelaide United but with a game in hand.
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Crossbar saves the Wanderers
After the Wanderers dominated the early stages, the Mariners began to get a foothold in the contest and they were inches away from a breakthrough on 26 minutes.
Serbian star Milan Duric was allowed time to turn and face goal about 25 yards from goal and he took up the invitation to test the Wanderers debutant keeper.
Duric’s strike took a deflection which had Tristan Prendergast beaten but the ball dipped onto the crossbar and over for a corner.
Woodwork denies Adam an opener
This time it was the Wanderers that were left frustrated by the crossbar in the last minute before the break.
Russell and Mitch Duke combined on the right before the latter swung in a dangerous cross which was perfect for Mohamed Adam.
The young striker hit a sweet first-time shot which was too good for Birighitti but cannoned onto the bar and away to safety for the hosts.
Ziegler makes a vital clearance
It took some desperate defending from Patrick Ziegler to deny the Mariners a go-ahead goal five minutes into the second half.
The dangerous Sam Silvera managed to get the ball to Matt Simon just inside the box and the Mariners skipper fired a low skidding shot which appeared destined for the bottom corner of the net.
But Ziegler showed all his experience, getting back on the line and sliding in to clear the ball away and spare his side’s blushes.
Duric delivers again for the Mariners
The Mariners had been the better of the sides since the resumption and got their reward just before the hour mark.
It was a wonderful sweeping move as well as Tommy Oar played in a delightful cross from the left that found an unmarked Matt Simon at the far post.
And the Mariners skipper did the unselfish thing, playing a first-time pass across the face of goal for Duric to slid in and pounce.
Cox breaks the Mariners’ hearts
Just when the home side thought they may have withstood all the Wanderers had thrown at them, Cox found the net two minutes from time.
Mitch Duke did well to play in a cross from the left, with Cox showing all his class to dart in front of his defender to glance a header past Birighitti.
- Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners
When: Monday, 3 August
Where: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick-off: 7.30pm (AEST)
- Western Sydney Wanderers v Wellington Phoenix
When: Friday, 31 July
Where: Bankwest Stadium
Kick-off: 7.30pm (AEST)