Central Coast Mariners football manager Lawrie McKinna has found plenty of positives in a 1-all F3 derby draw with Newcastle, played in front of 9,573 fans at Bluetongue Stadium.
“In the first half we had enough possession and enough chances to win the game and the thing we spoke about at half time was staying switched on, but it was a sloppy goal we gave away. Song scored the goal but it came from through the middle. I think Pedj (Bojic) just let them drift off him because we thought we’d won the header.
“You can never switch off, but credit to the boys we came back and got a goal reasonably quickly, and I thought we’d go on with it from there. We started playing a bit safer than we did in the first half. In the first half I thought we played some great football. Broke well, kept possession well generally, but stopped doing that in the second half, and Newcastle got more of the ball in the second half.
“Without having a lot of clear cut chances, they probably had a bit more of the possession in the second half, but in the first half I thought we had done enough to win the game,” said McKinna.
The Mariners thought they had the lead after just 11 minutes when Matt Simon capitalised on a Ben Kennedy mistake at the near post, only for the assistant referee to rule him offside.
“I haven’t seen it at all. The decision’s been made, it’s not going to change. Some people say he was definitely not off, others say he was just off. The decision’s been made and it doesn’t alter it, we still had three good clear cut chances after that,” McKinna said.
With the Mariners remaining unbeaten through the opening two matches of the Hyundai A-League, McKinna was pleased with his side’s overall effort.
“Last week defensively we did alright, and I think we’ve done the same again. They had to match us because we were overrunning them and they had to go to 4-3-3 to match us up man-to-man. Thompson caused us a few problems in the second half when he started bombing forward as he does, but we got on top of that and he never really cut us open much. They put us under a bit of pressure with set pieces and free kicks, but we had the bulk of possession.
“Generally we’re reasonably happy because at the end of last season we could have lost that game in the last few minutes but we never. We could have won it in the last couple of minutes if Ahmad (Elrich) connected with that shot,” said McKinna.
And skipper Alex Wilkinson agreed with McKinna’s observations.
“In a way pretty frustrating. First half was pretty good I thought, defensively we were solid and our ball movement was good, but in the second half we tended to drop off a bit, Newcastle picked up and their play was quite good. We sat off them a bit and let them spread out, which didn’t happen in the first half and gave them more room and easier possession. A bit disappointed but as Lawrie said we’re still undefeated, four points from two games isn’t bad and a big game against Sydney next week, so looking forward to that.
“The boys might have run out of legs a bit. (Andrew) Clarky has been working us pretty hard and we’ve still got a couple of weeks until he thinks we’re fully fit but I don’t think that was the main reason. The first half an hour of the second half was where we found ourselves in a bit of a lull and then the last fifteen minutes we came back into it and started to keep the ball a tiny bit better,” said Wilkinson.