Debutant ‘keeper Tom Heward-Belle believes some “unlucky circumstances” contributed to Central Coast Mariners’ heavy defeat to Sydney FC on Boxing Day.
The Mariners were crushed 4-1 by the Sky Blues at Allianz Stadium, with the young gloveman making an unexpected debut off the bench after first-choice ‘keeper Paul Izzo was sent off before the half hour mark.
Already trailing 2-0, Heward-Belle’s first task was to pick the ball out of his own net as Mickael Tavares converted a penalty but the youngster pulled off a string of fine saves from then on to mark a solid first Hyundai A-League appearance.
In a drama-charged first half, the visitors not only saw Izzo dismissed but also conceded two penalties.
“A couple of decisions didn’t go our way early but that’s never an excuse,” Heward-Belle told ABC Radio afterwards.
“We kept playing after those decisions and all-round it was just some unlucky circumstances.
“I think we played hard today we were just a little bit unlucky.”
While disappointed to be on the end of a heavy defeat, Heward-Belle was delighted to have got his first taste of A-League action.
It wasn’t that long ago that he was watching Sydney FC games chanting from the Cove and on Saturday night found himself playing in front of them.
“It’s a weird feeling because as a youngster I was sitting in the Cove over there and hearing the chants is not new to me,” he said.
“I had my mum, dad and sister here watching as well.
“I obviously didn’t expect to play but this club is all about youth and has prepared me well so I didn’t feel out of ease.
“It was a good experience. I really wanted to get out there and get a taste of the A-League.”
With Izzo to now miss the New Year’s Eve clash against Wellington, Heward-Belle is likely to gain his first A-League start.
New signing Alastair Bray isn’t available until after the New Year, meaning fellow youth team ‘keeper Adam Pearce will be on the bench against Phoenix.
The defeat against Sydney was the Mariners’ sixth in a row – a new club record – and Tony Walmsley’s side is now without a win in their last 11 games.