A stunning injury-time strike by Nick Montgomery has helped Central Coast Mariners snatch a 1-1 draw with Perth Glory in Gosford on Sunday.
The visitors looked on track for their first win in nine games when super-sub Jamie MacLaren headed them in front with just 11 minutes left.
But Montgomery had the final say in the second minute of stoppage time, hitting a powerful shot from 25 yards out and to the right of the box which flew into the far, top corner.
It was no less than the Mariners deserved in an encouraging display but Glory’s Premiers’ Plate hopes have taken a hit, still without a win since January 2.
0-1 MacLaren (79’) - Nebojsa Marinkovic’s out-swinging corner was right into the danger area, with MacLaren getting to the ball just before Liam Reddy and plant his header in the far corner.
1-1 Montgomery (92’) – A scuffed clearance from Michael Thwaite rolled straight into the path of Montgomery about 25 yards out from goal. The Englishman had just one thought in his mind and let fly with a thunderous shot, which flew past stand-in ‘keeper Jack Duncan into the top corner.
Without a genuine striker in their line-up, Nick Fitzgerald was again deployed in a ‘false 9’ position for the Mariners. And he got into a number of good scoring positions, none better than on 19 minutes when Dino Djulbic got all tangled up right on the edge of Glory’s box. Fitzgerald nipped in to win possession and take it slightly around ‘keeper Jack Duncan and sliding a shot under the gloveman towards goal. But the ball trickled against the post and came away, allowing Djulbic to get back and clear.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Glory goal-scorer MacLaren has now scored five times this season off the bench, the most of any player in the competition. Glory is proving to be adept at scoring late, with 13 of their 35 goals now this season coming in the last 15minutes of matches. Mariners skipper John Hutchinson became the most-capped player in the Hyundai A-League, making his 223rd-appearance to sit one clear of Glory’s Danny Vukovic, who missed the match through injury.
The first meaningful attack of the match saw Glory playmaker Nebojsa Marinkovic turn Jacob Poscoliero inside out on the edge of the box and rifling a venomous shot towards goal. Mariners ‘keeper Liam Reddy was a full-stretch and got a fingertip on the ball, just enough to push it up onto the crossbar and away. The rebound fell to Andy Keogh but he blazed over from close range. It was a huge let-off for the home side but Reddy’s sensational save deserved to be rewarded without his side going behind.
Mariners defender Jacob Poscoliero carried a slight hamstring twinge into the match and lasted just 24 minutes before he aggravated it and was forced off. Glory midfielder Mitch Nichols also limped off 17 minutes from the end with what looked like a hip problem.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Perth boss Kenny Lowe decided to leave ex-Mariner Rostyn Griffiths on the bench and the visitors certainly missed his presence in the first half. The Mariners dominated the midfield for large periods and enjoyed almost 60 percent possession over the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately for the home side they were unable to turn that into many clear-cut scoring chances, letting Glory off the hook and the visitors eventually wore them down late on.
THE FINAL WORD
The Mariners come up against another title-chasing side on Friday night as they head to Melbourne to battle Victory at AAMI Park. Glory returns home for a clash with the struggling Western Sydney Wanderers FC on Saturday, a great chance to re-ignite their push for the Premiers’ Plate.
Central Coast Mariners: Reddy, Morton, Anderson, Poscoliero (Sim 24’), J. Rose, Hutchinson (Major 85’), Montgomery, Ferreira, Caceres, Cernak (Kalik 69’), Fitzgerald
Perth Glory: Duncan, Risdon, Djulbic, Thwaite, Jamieson, Zadkovich, Nichols (Paljic 73’), Marinkovic (Griffiths 86’), Garcia, De Silva (MacLaren 63’), Keogh
Scorers: MacLaren 79’, Montgomery 92'
Red cards: none
Yellow cards: Cernak 28’, Marinkovic 32’, Djulbic 47’, Rose 50’, Anderson 63’, Zadkovich 72’
Conditions: 21C, Wet
Attendance: 5338 @ Central Coast Stadium