Preview: Central Coast v Brisbane
Back-to-back losses by Central Coast have put the pressure on Lawrie McKinna's men to rediscover their winning ways or risk losing touch with the top three altogether.
Date: Saturday December 19 Kick-off: 18:00 AEDT (17:00 AEST) Venue: Bluetongue Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 2 (HD). Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is Coast FM 96.3 (Gosford). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au
Head-to-head Played 16: Wins: Central Coast 3, Brisbane 7, Draws: 6
Previous meeting Brisbane Roar 0, Central Coast Mariners 3, Round 11, October 2009
Past Five Matches: Central Coast Mariners: Round 14: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 4, Etihad Stadium Round 15: North Queensland Fury 1, Central Coast Mariners 5, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 16: Central Coast Mariners 0, Perth Glory 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 17: Gold Coast United 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, Skilled Park Round 18: Central Coast Mariners 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Bluetongue Stadium
Brisbane Roar: Round 15: Brisbane Roar 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 16: Brisbane Roar 4, Wellington Phoenix 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 17: Perth Glory 1, Brisbane Roar 1, Members Equity Stadium Round 18: Brisbane Roar 0, Adelaide United 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 19: Brisbane Roar 3, North Queensland Fury 0, Suncorp Stadium
Analysis: Back-to-back losses by Central Coast have put the pressure on Lawrie McKinna's men to rediscover their winning ways or risk losing touch with the top three altogether. The Mariners take on a similarly inconsistent Brisbane side, backing up after Wednesday's impressive 2-0 win over North Queensland, just their third success in their past 11 matches.
Four weeks ago, the Mariners looked a real threat for the title having demolished Melbourne 4-0 at Etihad Stadium and then backed up with an impressive 5-1 win in Townsville. But the past three weeks have yielded just one point, in a dull 0-0 draw against Perth. While the Mariners could have had a point from the 2-1 loss to the Gold Coast, they were overwhelmed by Melbourne 3-0 in their worst defensive performance of the year.
In that match, the Mariners altered their defensive and midfield set-up and became very compact, playing a high off-side line which Melbourne was able to exploit by using quick movement of the ball and pace out wide. McKinna would have to admit that wasn't a particularly effective tactic and given the speed Roar possess on the flanks, it would seem unlikely they would try that again.
The poor defensive performance was very uncharacteristic of Central Coast this season, which has conceded just 14 goals in 18 games, but the loss of a couple of key players to suspension for this match must be a concern. Dean Heffernan and John Hutchison, who signed on for three more years with the club this week, both sit this one out, while Michael McGlinchey and Shane Huke return from injury and Dylan MacAllister has been included.
Brisbane may still be having some issues with consistency but Wednesday's win over the Fury helped lift them off the bottom and up to seventh on what is a very compact table. Sergio van Dijk scored both goals and has now scored 10 of the club's 25 for the season so far. His record in Gosford is impressive with four goals from his past three games.
Another win in this match and Brisbane would go ahead of the Mariners on the table, but the Roar haven't won back to back matches since last season. They are also looking to turn around a 3-0 defeat by the Mariners when the two teams met in the aftermath of Frank Farina's departure at Suncorp Stadium in October.
However, incredibly Brisbane has never lost a match in eight Hyundai A-League trips to Bluetongue Stadium, having won four and drawn four there since 2005. They beat the Mariners in Gosford 2-1 in last year's finals series and prior to that won a seven-goal epic 4-3 in January.
Brisbane has understandably kept its options open in terms of selection for this match, including three, Andrew Packer, Luke Brattan and Matt Mundy into the squad which accounted for North Queensland, while David Dodd is out suspended.
Ange Postecolgou will be looking to use the speed of Tommy Oar and Henrique to put pressure on the Mariners out wide again, and will be hoping van Dijk can continue in his rich vein of form.
But McKinna will back his defence not to have two bad games in a row and will be hoping McGlinchey's return to fitness can help shore up the midfield and create more chances for a team which has scored just one goal in its past three matches.
Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 2. Matthew CROWELL, 3. Shane HUKE, 4. Brad PORTER, 5. Pedj BOJIC, 9. Nik MRDJA, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 12. Matthew LEWIS, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 21. Ahmad ELRICH, 22. Nicky TRAVIS, 23. Adam KWASNIK. *two to be omitted*
In: Michael McGLINCHEY (return from injury), Shane HUKE (promoted), Dylan MACALLISTER (promoted)
Out: Dean HEFFERNAN (suspended - 1 week), John HUTCHINSON (suspended - 1 week)
Unavailable: Dean HEFFERNAN (suspended - 1 week), John HUTCHINSON (suspended - 1 week), Chris DOIG (quad - 1 week)
Brisbane Roar squad: 1. Matt HAM (gk), 2. Andrew PACKER, 3. Luke DEVERE, 4. Craig MOORE (c), 5. Josh McCLOUGHAN, 7. Michael ZULLO, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA, 9. Sergio VAN DIJK, 12.Matthew MUNDY, 13. HENRIQUE, 14. Adam SAROTA, 15. Matt McKAY, 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 20. Griffin McMASTER (gk), 21. Tommy OAR, 22. Ivan FRANJIC, 23. Tim SMITS, 25.Luke BRATTAN *three to be omitted* In: Andrew PACKER (promoted), Luke BRATTAN (promoted), Tommy OAR (returns from injury), Matt MUNDY (promoted) Out: David DODD (suspended - one game)
Unavailable: Danny TIATTO (hamstring injury - 1 week), REINALDO (hamstring injury - 1 week)