Central Coast Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna was full of praise for his players after their victory over Perth Glory last night. Alex Wilkinson scored his first ever Hyundai A-League goal while Matt Simon finished things in the 89th minute, but it was the performance over the full 90 minutes which pleased McKinna.
"I thought after the initial five or ten minutes we settled down and kept the ball really well. When Wilko scored his goal, at half time we felt very comfortable, then in the second half I thought we defended great, apart from the penalty, McKinna said.
Referee Ben Williams ruled Brad Porter had handled in the area despite it appearing he'd attempted to control a cross with his chest, allowing Mile Sterjovski to score from a rebound, after Danny Vukovic blocked his spot kick.
McKinna was disappointed the Qantas Socceroo was able to have a second go.
"I just felt we could have timed our run to go in a bit better, we still maybe would not have got the ball, but we were flat footed off the mark. But Danny made a great save, and because he makes a save and they score from the rebound, you're a bit upset, because it's a soft penalty, Danny saves it, but Mile put it away well.
"Whether it was a penalty or not, we didn't look in any danger. They've got the penalty and had some momentum, but we were due a bit of luck and Matty Simon and Mrdja done very well during the game and Dylan (Macallister) came on and worked hard and believing in something could happen paid off.
"Credit to Matty Simon for following up with a tap in. I think the way we worked, and coming off a bad performance last week against a team who did very well, I think the boys deserved it," said McKinna.
As for captain Wilkinson, the 92 game veteran of the Hyundai A-League was still reflecting on his maiden goal, after pouncing on a Tando Velaphi block.
"I wasn't picked up to start with, so I was hoping the first ball came to me, but Pedj got a good header on, it popped up, and luckily I put it away. It's about time, it was a long time coming, and now the boys will stop taking the mickey out of me at training, that will be good.
"I don't get this feeling too often so I'm pretty happy, since under 12's when I was a striker. It's great, I'm rapt, and hopefully there are a few more to come," said Wilkinson.
But it wasn't just getting his name on the score-sheet which pleased the Mariners skipper.
"Very happy with how we are defending as a team. It's not just us at the back, it's the whole team getting in behind the ball and shutting down the space. We work hard on keeping the lines as close as possible, which results in not giving the other team much space to play in and it seems to be working for us at the moment.
"(We were) pretty unfortunate to concede tonight, it would have been nice to come home with a clean sheet, I think we deserved it," Wilkinson said.
McKinna shuffled his starting lineup, handing a debut start to Nicky Travis, and liked what he saw from the Sheffield united product, and the rest of his midfield.
"Travis, (Michael) McGlinchey, Pedj (Bojic), Pedj was the sole screener tonight, and I think he did a great job defensively, and when he had the ball. When we settled down in the middle of the first half I thought the interchange between them was great.
"McGlinchey was consistent for the whole game, Travis tired, obviously it's his first start and he tired in the second half and we were looking to substitute him but then when (Nik) Mrdja went down and (Andrew) Clarky cramped up we had to alter.
"Matt Simon played his best game of the season, I thought Mrdja did a great job, the two of them led the line well and the midfield supported. In the second half, we were very comfortable defensively, the boys were outstanding and it's just unfortunate that penalty happened," said McKinna.
While only 5,139 fans were present, McKinna was happy to heap praise on the Nation's capital as a football centre, as it pushes for its own team in an expanded Hyundai A-League.
"Canberra's been good to us, that's three games we've won down here now, and we'll be coming back. The pitch was great, it played well. Hopefully Canberra can get a team that they can support here week in week out.
"It was a good game of football by both teams, a lot of good passing and Perth were great on the break in the first half, and were exciting. People like to watch that, and I'm sure people coming to watch their first A-League game would come back," McKinna said.