Central Coast Mariners are back at North Sydney Oval on Friday night having moved one of their home A-League fixtures south for a second successive season. They will attempt to secure three points once again when they host Melbourne Victory, having accounted for Wellington at the same venue last December.
The Mariners are trying to attract new fans on Sydney’s North Shore as they attempt to boost match day revenues. It is a challenging balance to avoid alienating their Central Coast based core of support, but the Mariners have shown their commitment by using the publicity surrounding the fixture to announce plans for a junior academy at Northbridge.
On the pitch the Mariners are still searching for a second win of season. Recent positive displays have resulted only in draws, and while the general play has been solid they are clearly having trouble scoring goals.
Phil Moss has found himself under pressure as the wait for a win goes on. He has also had to fend off questions surrounding the unity within his squad, inflamed by incidents such as John Hutchinson’s substitution and subsequent exchange with a staff member in a recent game against Adelaide.
It is worth remembering that Moss was also under scrutiny midway through last season after a poor run of form, but the Mariners came good when it mattered – as they always seem to do – and qualified for the finals.
The Mariners’ task on Friday is all the harder for the excellent form displayed by Melbourne Victory. They are now the only team still unbeaten in the A-League this season, and are many people’s favourites for the title.
Victory are not happy about playing on a cricket pitch for the second time already this season, following a tough game at Adelaide Oval in round two. Kevin Muscat has suggested that some members of his squad carrying niggles or with recent history of injuries will not be risked due to the hard surface.
Victory’s attacking trio of Beshart Berisha, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Kosta Barbarouses are beginning to click, leaving the clubs all time record goal scorer Archie Thompson having to settle for a place on the bench. They have had injury disruptions at the back, but each player called upon to cover has stepped up admirably.
Friday 5th December, North Sydney Oval 19:30
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
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