The F3 Derby is not just another big game for Ben Kennedy, it defines his long Hyundai A-League career.
The Central Coast Mariners gloveman stood up in the most recent addition to the feud, saving two penalties from ex-Mariner Roy O’Donovan to earn his side a hard-fought 3-2 win.
He may be a hero in yellow and navy now, but it wasn’t always this way for the man who spent a decade as a Novocastrian.
Kennedy was part of the squad that broke the Mariners’ hearts in the 2008 Grand Final, making his move and subsequent heroics in Gosford even more remarkable.
Reflecting on the double save, Kennedy told www.a-league.com.au that it ranked highly in his long history in one of the league’s oldest rivalries.
“Played a few in my career, obviously, for both Central Coast and Newcastle but for me that one was right up there,” Kennedy said.
“Just to get the three points and from the performance the week before [when Mariners lost 8-2 at home to Wellington Phoenix] and the position we are in this year. That one was a very important one for us.”
The 32-year old revealed that he had worked with Mariners goalkeeping coach Matthew Nash midweek on O’Donovan’s technique but also admitted that luck had a significant part to play.
“Obviously Roy is quite a good penalty taker,” Kennedy said.
“I did some homework with Nashy and we were confident if we had to face a penalty we could save it, so [I am] just lucky he went that way.
“I felt that’s probably the way he likes to go so I just went that way and luckily he hit it that way again.”
The result ended a tumultuous week for the Mariners, who parted company with manager Mike Mulvey after their 8-2 loss to Wellington Phoenix.
Former Westfield Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic was named interim manager shortly after and he started in the best possible fashion, guiding the Mariners to only their second win of the campaign.
Kennedy said that while Stajcic had not changed a lot, the new perspectives offered by the coach were helping the side move forward.
“There hasn’t been a big difference, he’s only been with us for less than a week so obviously it’s hard to change things in that time,” he said.
“I think just the fresh air and fresh ideas and a different voice and the boys put in a good shift on the weekend. But it’s something we’re going to work on in the next few weeks and hopefully take into the rest of the season.
“We haven't been great as a whole defensively so that’s probably the one thing we’re going to focus on and if we are hard to break down we can always score a few goals. If that happens I think we’ll win a few more games."