Tough run ahead for Mariners

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold turned his attention to the gruelling schedule awaiting his side in the coming months after they overcame heavy fatigue to see of Adelaide 3-2 in a thriller at Bluetongue on Saturday.

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold turned his attention to the gruelling schedule awaiting his side in the coming months after they overcame heavy fatigue to see of Adelaide 3-2 in a thriller at Bluetongue on Saturday.

The Mariners played their sixth match in 21 days against the resurgent Reds and spent most of the match 2-1 behind despite taking an early lead.

But they showed the mentality befitting of their position high above their A-League rivals on the ladder to somehow fight back and claim victory, thus extending their unbeaten streak to a club record 15 matches.

But the going will get tougher come March when the Mariners face the dual challenge of the A-League title race and the Asian Champions League group stage, combined with key absences due to Olyroos duty.

Arnold was delighted with the way his team responded after a flat first half to win through late goals by substitute Adam Kwasnik and fullback Josh Rose.

"As I said to the players I'm blown away by their character," Arnold said. "It's phenomenal. That's three games in seven days. The boys obviously still have (midweek opponents) Melbourne Heart in their legs but to come back the way they did was mind-blowing.

"I just stayed positive at half time because I believe so much in the boys. I told them to play the way we play and stay positive. We talked about Plan B if it stayed 2-1 after 60 minutes to go with a back three. We got Mikey (McGlinchey) and Troy Hearfield one-on-one (with their opponents).

"That's the thing about this group of players they take the gameplan and believe in it. I felt when we went to a back three it changed the game. It gave us the initiative. When it got to 2-2 I considered going to a back four but the boys said keep it the same we want to go for it."

Rare lapses in concentration from reliable Mariners defenders Patrick Zwaanswijk and Alex Wilkinson allowed Sergio van Dijk and Bruce Djite to overhaul Daniel McBreen's opener, and Arnold was in a forgiving mood after recent exertions had taken their toll on bodies and minds.

"I would have preferred to play Sunday to get the extra day break. There was a bit of flatness and fatigue and the minds were a bit blunt. But after the second goal Adelaide scored it woke them up very quickly."

Arnold said he was "disappointed" his calls to FFA to consider changing the schedule to lighten his side's travel load in March had fallen on deaf ears.

"They've given us Perth Glory and Wellington away when we have Asian Champions League. I worry about the players' welfare. We play Sydney on the Saturday, we fly to China for the Wednesday via Hong Kong, then we have to back up in Perth.

"I don't know whether to play a reserve team in the A-League or in the Champions League. It's tough. I don't want any players to get badly injured. It's tough enough as it is travelling from Sydney to Perth. Throw China on top of that as well."

Match-winner Josh Rose said it was enjoyable to get three points in style after grinding out some recent victories, notably in Wednesday's lucky 1-0 winner over Heart.

"We played some great football in the second half," Rose said. "We got the three points on Wednesday night but we weren't happy with the way we did it. Tonight even at 2-1 down I was enjoying myself again out there. It was great to play football again. The movement was back, the two-touch passing. And that showed when even at 2-2 we wanted to go for it."

Rose praised young goalkeeper Mat Ryan, who was man of the match in Melbourne before making a crucial stop against Van Dijk where his save came back off the post and along the goal line into his grasp, and this just seconds before Rose's decisive strike.

"The kid's in great form. It's saves like that that win games for you. He's doing miracles for us at the moment. You can't expect him to do it every week but he is at the moment."