Preview: Central Coast v North Queensland
The Mariners have been up-and-down this season, but haven't lost two games in a row. They still need to develop some winning momentum to challenge the frontrunners and an undermanned Fury side at Bluetongue seems as good a place as any to start.
Date: Sunday October 11 Kick-off: 3:00pm AEST Venue: Bluetongue Stadium, Central Coast TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is Coast FM 96.3 (Gosford). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au
Head-to-head No prior meetings
Past five matches: Central Coast: Round 5: Central Coast 2, Perth Glory 1, Canberra Stadium Round 6: Adelaide United 1, Central Coast 0, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 7: Central Coast 3, Gold Coast United 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 8: Wellington Phoenix 0, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Round 9: Sydney FC 1, Central Coast 0, Sydney Football Stadium
North Queensland: Round 5: North Queensland Fury 1, Brisbane Roar 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 6: Sydney FC 0, North Queensland 1, SFS Round 7: Wellington 1, North Queensland 1, Westpac Stadium Round 8: North Queensland 0, Adelaide United 2, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 9: Perth Glory 1, North Queensland 1, ME Bank Stadium
Analysis: The Fury produced one of the bravest performances seen this season against Perth last weekend but will have to up the ante in their forward third to unravel the stingiest Mariners defence ever fielded when the two sides clash on Sunday. But despite the Mariners sitting fifth and facing the last-placed Fury, the result could go either way, as the last five weeks shows just how even these two sides have been.
For the Mariners, coach Lawrie McKinna has seen his side earn seven points and kick just five goals, while conceding only three. On the other side, after a difficult start to its campaign, North Queensland has earned six points in the last five weeks and has only been beaten once in a fortuitous 2-0 victory for Adelaide United. It has only scored four times though, with one of those a somewhat lucky own goal by Glory stopper Tando Velaphi last week. But the big bonus for coach Ian Ferguson is that his makeshift defence, missing Karl Dodd, Jacob Timpano and now Shane Stefanutto, has only conceded five times in the last five games.
Of the coaches, Ferguson would be more pleased with last week's effort. Despite losing Ufuk Talay to a second yellow card just before the break, along with Stefanutto, who was stretchered off with a ruptured ACL, his side still came from behind to draw 1-1 with Perth. It was backs-to-the-wall stuff for North Queensland that boosts a club's psyche no-end and Ferguson will be hoping the dressing-room confidence will flow onto the pitch this weekend. McKinna, meanwhile, saw his side lack spark in a 1-0 loss to Sydney last Monday. It may have been a tough midfield battle, but without the injured Matt Simon, strikers Nik Mrdja and Dylan Macallister never came close to breaking their goal drought, while the closest the team came to scoring was a stunning volley by youngster Michael McGlinchey that came ever so close to being the greatest goal ever seen in this competition.
There's good and bad news for McKinna on the selection front. Positively, Simon returns from a hip flexor injury. He's joined in the side by the promoted David D'Apuzzo, Matthew Crowell and Ahmad Elrich, while reserve stopper Andrew Redmayne also comes into a squad that will be cut by two. But the big out has been the impressive McGlinchey, who's on international duty with New Zealand, while John Hutchinson has been dropped.
The Fury, once again, have had to make changes and Ferguson must surely be wondering if he'll ever be able to establish a consistent line-up. Stefanutto's unfortunate knee injury means Jason Spagnulo replace him at left back as Talay's suspension sees Rostyn Griffiths returns to the side. Ferguson has also dropped Paul Kohler and brought in Osama Malik, Jeremy Brockie and David Williams to a squad that will have three omitted. Williams is an interesting inclusion as the coach specifically rested the promising youngster last weekend in the hope the week off would cure him of the poor confidence and touch he's displayed in recent weeks.
As Perth and Adelaide have discovered, the Fury won't hesitate to attack and if Daniel McBreen can find a clinical finish to match his industrious approach, then he and Fowler could pose plenty of problems. The Mariners have been up-and-down this season, but haven't lost two games in a row. They still need to develop some winning momentum to challenge the frontrunners and an undermanned Fury side at Bluetongue seems as good a place as any to start.
Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 2. Matthew CROWELL, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 6. David D'APUZZO, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 9. Nik MRDJA, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Chris DOIG, 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: Andrew REDMAYNE (return from international duty), Matthew CROWELL (promoted), David D'APUZZO (promoted), Ahmad ELRICH (promoted), Matt SIMON (return from injury)
Out: John HUTCHINSON (not selected), Michael McGLINCHEY (international duty), Matthew RYAN (gk) (not selected)
North Queensland Fury squad: 1.Paul HENDERSON (GK), 2.Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3.Chris TADROSSE, 4.Scott WILSON, 7.Jason SPAGNUOLO, 9.Robbie FOWLER (c), 10. Jeremy BROCKIE 11.David WILLIAMS, 12.Jack HINGERT, 14.Chris GROSSMAN, 15.Fred AGIUS, 18.James ROBINSON, 19.Daniel MCBREEN, 20.Justin PASFIELD (RGK), 21.John TAMBOURAS, 22. Osama MALIK, 24. Dyron DAAL. 23. Rostyn GRIFFITHS
*three to be omitted*
In: Rostyn GRIFFITHS (promoted), David Williams (promoted) Osama MALIK, Jeremy BROCKIE
Out: Ufuk TALAY (suspended), Shane STEFANUTTO (knee - indefinite), Paul KOHLER (not selected)
Unavailable: Jacob Timpano (hamstring - indefinite), Karl DODD (Knee -5 weeks)