They may be headed for the wooden spoon but Central Coast boss Tony Walmsley still feels his side can have a say in the make-up of the A-League top six and is adamant the club are heading in the right direction for the future.
The Mariners slumped to their 15th defeat of the season on Sunday, going down 1-0 in the F3 Derby thanks to Steven Ugarkovic’s second half strike.
While the Mariners created plenty of opportunities, their finishing was poor and then a costly error by experienced defender Josh Rose allowed the visitors to pounce.
"It was a very good effort from a young team. We made one critical mistake at the back that resulted in a goal,” Walmsley lamented.
“Some passing errors throughout the game that when we were in the ascendancy had they stopped, would have given us a bit more purchase.
“But we finished the game really well….we had them rattled [at the end].”
Walmsley said the focus was now on finishing the season as strong as possible with big games to come against teams fighting for spots in the top six.
It starts with the visit of champions Melbourne Victory next Sunday, with games also against the Sky Blues, Perth and the Jets in the final few rounds.
But the Mariners boss is also looking ahead to next season and is confident the club can be a force in 2016/17.
“We can still have an impact on who finishes [in the finals] - we play Sydney FC, we play the Jets again, we play Perth away,” Walmsley said.
“That's not the kind of thing that will inspire us or that we try and play for though. We're in the middle of a tough spell but one that will be, for the players, incredibly beneficial when they start to turn that corner.
“There'll be a tipping point where the mistakes stop, and that's a nil-all draw or a 1-0 win, or the 3-0 lead at Victory to a 3-3 draw ends up at 3-2.
“Just that tipping point where something holds out, or one player steps up to the mark that little bit sooner. You can't put a time frame on it, people are adapting quicker than others.
"I'm just sorry for the fans. They're turning up in numbers every week. Their team is bottom of the league. Nobody likes it, me more than anyone.
“I'm fortunate that I have the vision to see what's ahead. We have a recruitment strategy, we know what we want and when we balance what we've got with some experienced players down the spine we're going to be a different proposition come next season.”
Marquee man Luis Garcia was excellent for the home side despite struggling with an injury during his 60 minutes on the pitch.
Walmsley believes the Spaniard has tweaked a hamstring with the club to await the results of scans before knowing the extent of the issue.
Skipper Nick Montgomery received his eighth yellow card of the season and will miss next week’s clash with Victory due to suspension.