Preview: Central Coast v North Queensland
The importance of this match in the context of the season for both sides, who are level on points, can not be underestimated. Central Coast will be desperate to turn its form around, while the Fury need to start winning away from home if they are to be a serious threat of making the finals.
Date: Saturday January 9 Kick-off: 7:00pm AEDT, 6:00pm AEST Venue: Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
Head-to-head 2 A-League meetings: Wins: Central Coast 1, North Queensland 0, Draws: 1
Previous Meeting North Queensland 1, Central Coast Mariners 5, Dairy Farmers Stadium, November 2009
Past five matches: Central Coast Mariners: Round 17: Gold Coast United 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, Skilled Park Round 18: Central Coast Mariners 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Bluetongue Stadium Round 20: Central Coast Mariners 2, Brisbane Roar 3, Bluetongue Stadium Round 19: Central Coast Mariners 0, Sydney FC 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 21: Central Coast Mariners 0, Wellington Phoenix 2, Bluetongue Stadium
North Queensland Fury: Round 17: Sydney FC 4, North Queensland Fury 1, Sydney Football Round 18: North Queensland Fury 1, Perth Glory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 19: Brisbane Roar 2, North Queensland Fury 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 20: Newcastle Jets 3, North Queensland Fury 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 21: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Analysis: Central Coast will be out to end one of the worst losing runs in its history when it hosts a resurgent North Queensland at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday.
The Mariners, who were flying high in November, have slumped to five consecutive losses and currently sit eighth on the table, two points off the bottom, but just two points out of a finals position.
It-s hard to fathom where it all went wrong from Lawrie McKinna's men in December, as their famed defence fell part, conceding 11 goals, while there continued to be issues in front of goals, with just three scored during the same period. The last time the club endured such a drop in form was at the start of 2009 and McKinna will be hoping that the turning over of the calendar yields a change in fortune.
The return of Nigel Boogaard from suspension is a bonus, while Chris Doig, who hasn't taken the field since October, is also included. Two of the club's most influential players, goalkeeper Danny Vukovic and defender Dean Heffernan, return from national duty. Vukovic didn-t get his chance, but Heffernan made the most of his appearance in a Qantas Socceroos shirt, scoring his first international goal. Panny Nikis, Matthew Ryan and Matthew Lewis have been omitted.
The Mariners' last win came against the Fury in Townsville in late November, with the visitors prevailing 5-1 in an emphatic performance. Nik Mrdja scored two goals that night. The other encounter between these two ended 1-1 at Gosford in October.
North Queensland lifted itself off the bottom of the ladder with its biggest scalp of the year in the previous match. The 1-0 win over Melbourne wasn't pretty but it was much appreciated by the local fans, who have now seen their side win three matches in a row at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
The issue in recent times has been their form on the road. The Fury's past four away matches have resulted in defeats, including two to Newcastle and one to Brisbane and Sydney.
However, there are plenty of positive signs, particularly with the form of Dyron Daal. Given a full-time contract with the club just before Christmas, he has now scored three goals in the past two games to rubbish any suggestions that the team is too reliant of Robbie Fowler.
Fowler has been in good touch and remain the Fury's most influential player, but the pressure in no longer there to finish the goals as well, with the past five goals the fledgling club have scored coming from sources other than the Liverpool legend.
Coach Ian Ferguson has stuck with the same 15 players he took into the match against Melbourne leaving out the likes of Jacob Timpano, Rostyn Griffiths and Fred Agius.
The importance of this match in the context of the season for both sides, who are level on points, can not be underestimated. Central Coast will be desperate to turn its form around, while the Fury need to start winning away from home if they are to be a serious threat of making the finals. Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 2. Matthew CROWELL, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 9. Nik MRDJA, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON, 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 22. Nicky TRAVIS *one to be omitted*
In: Dean HEFFERNAN (returns from international duty), Danny VUKOVIC (returns from international duty), Nigel BOOGAARD (returns from suspension), Chris DOIG (returns from injury)
Out: Panny NIKAS (not selected), Matthew RYAN (not selected), Matthew LEWIS (not selected)
Unavailable: Shane HUKE (quadriceps - 1 week), Ahmad ELRICH (ankle - 1 week)
North Queensland Fury squad: 1.Paul HENDERSON (GK), 2.Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3. Chris TADROSSE, 7.Jason SPAGNUOLO, 9.Robbie FOWLER (c), 10.Jeremy BROCKIE, 13. Beau BUSCH, 14.Chris GROSSMAN, 16. Paul KOHLER, 19.Daniel MCBREEN, 20. Justin PASFIELD (GK), 24 Dyron DAAL, 25 Grant SMITH, 26 Matt SMITH, 27 Terry COOKE
Out: Jacob TIMPANO (not selected), Jack HINGERT (not selected), Fred AGIUS (not selected), Osama MALIK (not selected), John TAMBOURAS (not selected), Karl DODD (not selected), Rostyn GRIFFITHS (not selected)
Unavailable: Shane STEFANUTTO (knee - indefinite), Scott WILSON (knee - indefinite), James ROBINSON (knee- indefinite), Ufuk TALAY (calf: 4-6 weeks), David WILLIAMS (hamstring 4-6 weeks)