Central Coast boss Tony Walmsley admits anxiety crept into his young side as they surrendered a three-goal half-time lead against Melbourne Victory on Friday night.
The Mariners looked on course for the upset of the Hyundai A-League season as they stunned the champions with first-half goals from Harry Ascroft, Josh Bingham and Mitch Austin.
But they couldn’t repel a Victory tidal wave after the break to be forced to settle for a 3-3 draw at Simonds Stadium in Geelong.
“We’ve been great this season when we’ve gone behind because suddenly the shackles are off and everybody feels more relaxed,” Walmsley told Fox Sports.
“But when you do have the lead like that anxiety creeps in and all of a sudden you have something to lose.
“They [Victory] battered us second half. We needed to keep the ball, we needed more composure and that will come the more exposure we give these guys.”
The game swung on the hour mark when Victory was awarded a penalty for a clumsy tackle by Ascroft on Kosta Barbarouses in the box.
Walmsley admitted he warned his side at half-time to expect a response from Victory in the second half but they were powerless to stop the champions in full flight.
“They are a resilient side [Victory], they are not the champions for nothing and Barbarouses was on fire. We found it hard to contain him,” the Mariners boss said.
“Once they got that penalty, which was maybe contentious, momentum shifted and we weren’t comfortable enough or composed enough in possession which is what we talked about at half time.
“We’re still trying to play higher up the pitch, we’re still trying to entertain and I guess tonight was an entertaining game,” he added.
“The boys defended well but couldn’t keep the ball well enough in the second half to make the advantage count.”
Winger Fabio Ferreira was one of the Mariners best was trying to take the positives after his side let the win slip in stoppage-time to Besart Berisha’s second goal of the night.
“The team is young and we have a lot to improve. We’re getting there so hopefully it just keeps getting better,” the Portuguese flyer said.
“The team played very well, scored three goals and that’s why it feels like were not very happy, we played well tried to win the game then they scored. But that’s how it is.
“It’s better one point than zero but winning 3-0 it feels like a bad taste to draw the game. But we did very good and the team worked very hard so that’s good.”