Mariners focused on finals

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold believes a hectic end of season schedule has played into the Mariners hands as the club prepares to take on Brisbane in the first leg of the Hyundai A-League major semi-final at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday night.

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold believes a hectic end of season schedule has played into the Mariners hands as the club prepares to take on Brisbane in the first leg of the Hyundai A-League major semi-final at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday night.

The Mariners have had a very tough run-in to the finals with several tough away matches as well as a trip to China for the Asian Champions League.

Central Coast also had to deal with Japanese powerhouse Nagoya Grampus at Gosford last week before travelling to New Zealand for the final round A-League match which saw the club claim the Premiers Plate.

But instead of complaining about the tough schedule, the Mariners have embraced the situation and showed signs of returning to their best form at the perfect time of the campaign.

Arnold and skipper Alex Wilkinson said a major factor in the team's form revival is the Asian Champions League.

"It's so exciting for this club to be involved in the Asian Champions League and I think it has come at a good time for us," said Arnold, who was this week named the Professional Footballers Australia coach of the year.

"It has given us a new focus."

Wilkinson agrees, believing the two Champions League matches the club has played so far have helped the Mariners regain top form.

"It's definitely helped play us back into our top form," Wilkinson said.

"It's different and very exciting and gives us something else to focus on which can help. "

The challenges continue for the Mariners in what is shaping as another enormous week for the club.

After Brisbane in the first leg of the major semi-final tomorrow night the Mariners will have to quickly regroup for a showdown against K-League outfit Seongnam Ilwha Chunma at Gosford on Tuesday night.

They then have to back up to host Brisbane on Easter Sunday in the second leg of the major semi-final.

"I'd rather be playing matches than training," Wilkinson said. "We'll be ready."