Stajcic identifies the area that will make the Mariners a true A-League force

Alen Stajcic believes Central Coast Mariners have a long way to go before mounting a 'credible' A-League assault but is confident they will do so when the Gosford club improve their control of the ball. 

The Mariners returned to the A-League summit on Friday evening with a stunning 2-0 win over reigning Premiers and Champions Sydney FC in Kogarah thanks to Ben Warland's 53rd-minute own goal and Alou Kuol's second goal of the campaign. 

It was Central Coast's first win over the Sky Blues in seven years, and the club that have finished bottom of the pile for three years consecutive have now earned three wins from four matches in 2020/21 and conceded just a single goal in the process.

The team's brilliant start to the season delights Stajcic, but the 47-year-old former Westfield Matildas boss is not getting ahead of himself despite whispers of the club's glory days returning.

While praising the courage and spirit of his charges, Stajcic reminded the Mariners they must remain 'pragmatic' and labelled ball retention as a key area of improvement. 

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The Mariners have averaged 35.6% possession in their previous three fixtures against Macarthur FC (2-0 win), Western Sydney Wanderers (1-0 defeat) and Sydney FC.

Against Sydney on Friday, there were echoes of that 2-0 triumph over Macarthur on January 3, in the way Stajcic's team defended manfully before executing their counter-attacks with razor-like efficiency to leave their much-fancied opponents floored. 

"The work rate from the team is incredible," Stajcic said.

 "If we keep up that level and increase our comfort levels on the ball then we're just going to get better and better as the year goes on.

"We want to be pragmatic. It's just the beginning for me and we know how far we have to go to get real credibility in the league. We're not going to rest on our laurels after four rounds and say we've done the job. 

He added: "The courage tonight was by far the best I've seen from a Mariners team a long time. 

"The other day was the most we've run in a game this year, against the Wanderers, on average in terms of high-speed metres and GPS metres.

"To be able to back up two days later and play Sydney away when they've had a big break is just amazing."

Next fixture

Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix
Sunday, 31 January 2021
Venue: Central Coast Stadium
Kick-off: 4.05pm AEDT
Match Centre

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