Long before Sydney and Melbourne added second teams to the competition, the clash between Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets was the original A-League derby. It is still fondly known as the F3 derby, despite the stretch of road linking Gosford and Newcastle since being renamed the M1. The latest instalment takes place tonight at Bluetongue Stadium.
The Mariners have had what could be described as an unspectacular season so far, but they have quietly crept into third spot on the A-League ladder. If they can get going in attack they will be true contenders for another championship. Currently only bottom side Melbourne Heart have scored less goals this season than the Mariners.
Last weekend’s win over Sydney FC should have been by a greater margin than the 1-0 final score, although it has to be said that the Sky Blues were very poor. Incredibly the Mariners are still yet to record consecutive victories in the A-League this season.
With the Asian Champions League campaign about to get underway Mariners coach Phil Moss will have to manage his squad well. John Hutchinson returns from suspension for the derby, although the midfield were excellent in his absence against Sydney and anyone who drops out to make way can count themselves unlucky.
After some promising results in early season, the Jets have fallen away badly over the last few weeks. Having fallen out of the finals places, and on the back of a loss to the previously winless Melbourne Heart, Newcastle sacked coach Gary van Egmond on Monday and replaced him with National Youth League coach Clayton Zane.
Ben Kantarovski is suspended for the derby but Adam Taggart and Josh Brillante are among a group of young players who are back from international duty. They will need a vast improvement on recent displays if they are to notch a first win at Bluetongue Stadium since 2008.
Saturday 25th January, Bluetongue Stadium Gosford 19:30
Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets