Sunday, July 16, 2006
A Family Affair
I always enjoy my visits to the Central Coast Mariners' little gem of a stadium, now renamed the Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium in honour of their brewer sponsors.
Last night, the A-League pre-season cup kicked off there. The Mariners, missing a number of key players, saw off a similarly depleted Perth Glory side 2-1. Not a classic game by any means, but there were some bright moments.
The Central Coast club has recently given the impression of being a new focal point for the local community, and the glib label "family club" fits them unusually well. As always, I was struck by the large number of pre-teen children in the stands, eagerly following the action and occasionally firing sensible questions at their parents. Outside of Bay 16, the Mariners definitely cater for all ages.
Local pride was boosted by the solid contingent of local talent in the squad, and there was a proud response from one of the more knowledgeable patrons when a fellow spectator asked who the Mariners' No. 5 was. "That's Brad Porter...he's a local lad!" came the triumphant reply.
That particular lad provided a fine cross for Stewart Petrie's opening goal. Only a couple of minutes later Petrie turned provider, holding the ball up on the edge of the box before sliding a perfectly-weighted pass for Adam Kwasnik to run onto, and double the lead.
I was particularly interested in the battle between two A-League newcomers, Leo Bertos and Vuko Tomasevic, on the Perth right. Bertos is the speedy Kiwi right-winger who gave the 2004 Olyroos many a headache in the Oceania playoff for the Athens Olympics. Tomasevic, a veteran of the NSL (and scorer of a famous, spectacular goal for Northern Spirit), has been in commanding form for Marconi this season.
I felt that Tomasevic came off the better, with the exception of an extraordinary moment in the second half when the Mariners' new recruit simply lost track of Bertos, and allowed him a hectare of space on the right in which to pick his shot...and score.
It should be added that Tomasevic was looking to get forward more than one would normally expect from a fullback. He has been signed, evidently, to fill the left-back slot vacated by the Germany-bound Dean Heffernan, but I was left in some doubt as to whether left-back is Tomasevic's true position.
The combination of Petrie and Kwasnik up front looks full of promise; the Mariners may be able to make light of the continuing absence of Nick Mrdja for a little while longer. Matthew Osman capably filled Noel Spencer's shoes in defensive midfield for the first half-hour...another good sign for Lawrie McKinna. On the minus side, Danny Vukovic, so impressive last season, had a few difficult moments in goal.
5,682 was the official attendance. Five and a half thousand may seem a disappointing crowd at first, but when you consider that this was a day of relentlessly miserable weather, and a game of limited importance, the turnout bodes fairly well.