Mariners call in Clark as back-up

Veteran Central Coast defender Andrew Clark has been taken to New Zealand for defensive cover as the Mariners battle Wellington in a vital Hyundai A-League contest on Friday night.

Veteran Central Coast defender Andrew Clark has been taken to New Zealand for defensive cover as the Mariners battle Wellington in a vital Hyundai A-League contest on Friday night.

Clark, who has not played since dislocating a shoulder against the Phoenix at Gosford in October, has travelled with left back Matthew Osman in doubt.

Osman picked up a minor knock in last week's win against Sydney and has been hampered at training this week. If Osman is ruled out then Dean Heffernan will make his first Hyundai A-League start in a year, with Clark to play off the bench.

"We'll see how Ossie is when we have a run in New Zealand but if he's out we've got some pretty good options," Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna said before the team left for New Zealand on Wednesday.

"Heff got a lot of confidence out of his performance last week and Clarkey is fit again. We've got a bit of depth in the squad at the moment."

Brad Porter and Dylan Macallister have also battled minor injuries this week but McKinna said both would play.

Matt Simon, Central Coast's leading goalscorer, came off the bench last week after recovering from a knee injury and will be pushing for a start against Wellington.

The last time the teams met in New Zealand the Mariners missed a host of great chances and had to settle for a scoreless draw.

"It's always a tough trip but by going over early we'll give ourselves every chance of getting a good result," McKinna said.

The Mariners are clinging to fourth place but Wellington would join Central Coast on 22 points with a win.

"The competition is that close at the moment, you can't afford any slip-ups," McKinna said.