Struggling Central Coast Mariners have finished 2015 on a high, recording an impressive 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix in Gosford on Thursday night.
First-half goals to Fabio Ferreira and Mitch Austin gave the Mariners the ascendency before substitute Blake Powell gave the Phoenix a glimmer of hope midway through the second half.
But a potential comeback was short-lived with Mariners midfielder Michael Neill putting the game behind doubt with 20 minutes remaining.
1-0 (Fabio Ferreira 27’) – The Mariners were awarded a spot kick for a foul on Josh Rose and Ferreira made no mistake from 12 yards, dispatching a thunderous strike past Glen Moss.
2-0 (Mitch Austin 30’) – Roy O’Donovan nicked the ball away from Andrew Durante on the wing before teeing up Austin at the back stick who slotted into an empty net.
2-1 (Blake Powell 67’) – Matthew Ridenton found space on the right flank before delivering a wicked ball across goal which was tucked home by Blake Powell.
3-1 (Michael Neill 70’) – The midfielder pounced on a loose ball inside the Phoenix area before unleashing a tidy finish past a helpless Glen Moss.
The Phoenix will feel aggrieved to have conceded the opener after Manny Muscat was harshly adjudged to have fouled Josh Rose inside the area. Muscat appeared to win the ball momentarily before colliding with the Mariners fullback, with Fabio Ferreira dispatching the resulting spot kick.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
The Phoenix dominated possession (68.5%) and had nearly 300 more passes than the Mariners but failed to capitalise in the final third. The Mariners were able to manufacture more attempts at goal (15 to 9) and more shots on target (8 to 4) than Wellington.
Phoenix striker Roy Krishna went down with an ankle injury midway through the first half. The Fijian tried to battle on but was replaced in the 32nd minute by Blake Powell.
THE FINAL WORD
The Mariners will head into 2016 feeling much better about themselves after snapping their six-match losing run.
High-octane wingers Fabio Ferreira and Mitch Austin showed flashes of brilliance on return from injury and Tony Walmsley will be desperate to keep the duo on the pitch in the second half of the season.
Wellington have now lost seven straight away from home and could drop out of the top six by the end of the round.
Ernie Merrick will be sweating on the fitness of Roy Krishna and high-profile recruit Jeffrey Sarpong for next week’s clash with Brisbane, while Alex Rodriguez will be missing through suspension.
Central Coast Mariners: Heward-Belle (gk), Roux, Ascroft, Poscoliero, J. Rose, Montgomery (c), Neill, McGing, Ferreira (Bingham 68’), Austin (Rose 78'), O’Donovan (Heffernan 91')
Wellington Phoenix: Moss (gk), Durante (c), Muscat, Lia, Danaskos, Gorrin, Bonevacia, Gulley (Ridenton 45’), McGlinchey, Appiah, Krishna (Powell 32’)
Scorers: Ferreira 27', Austin 30', Powell 67', Neill 70'
Yellow cards: McGing 8’, Rodriguez 26’, Muscat 27’, Lia 48’, Durante 60’, O’Donovan 60’, Bingham 68’, Bonevacia 87’, Neill 95’
Red cards: Nil
Conditions: Fine, 21C
Attendance: 10,073 at Central Coast Stadium