The famed fighting quality of the Central Coast Mariners came to the fore again at Members Equity Stadium last night, with Sasho Petrovski's last gasp equaliser securing an unlikely 2-2 draw for the visitors.
In the latest installment of the Mariners’ heart stopping season four comeback series, Mile Jedinak was first on the score sheet before Nikita Rukavytsya's double and, finally, Petrovski's late leveller.
What looked to be three points became one, then none, then one again for the yellow and navy, who were seldom as cohesive and clinical as they have been throughout the current campaign.
Second best for much of the match, the Mariners were perhaps fortunate to come away from their only trip to the Western Australian capital for 2008/09 with anything to show for their efforts, but with their place in the Hyundai A-League top four in tact no less.
"I feel as though we were lucky and fortunate today but we still showed character in coming back to get a goal in the last minute," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.
"We should have been able to come out in the second half and defend, we knew they were going to come at us and we were starting to get through it, but Perth dominated the second half, they had us under the all sorts of pressure.
"Once they got a goal they lifted and I’ve said it many times that it’s hard to get a result over here, before the game I said that I’d be happy with a draw and now I’m very happy with the draw and think that we’re very fortunate to have got it."
Mariners debutant Chris Tadrosse was unveiled at the opening whistle as a virtual swap for suspended defender Pedj Bojic and his inclusion was one of two changes made by McKinna, with goal scorer Petrovski relegated to the bench at the expense of Matthew Osman.
Despite Petrovski’s absence, the Mariners were still represented by a front three, with Adrian Caceres slotting alongside Dylan Macallister and Matt Simon.
While a Caceres effort would hit the crossbar early on, it wasn’t until Jedinak’s pile driver at the half hour mark that the Mariners would look totally assured going forward.
The Qantas Socceroo again underlined his value from set pieces with a sensational dead ball strike after Glory defender Jamie Harnwell was fouled and cautioned for an intentional handball on the edge of the penalty area.
Although not entirely convincing, the Mariners deserved their half time advantage and began the second forty-five in much the same manner, only for Rukavytsya to capitalise on a fortuitous clearance and draw the home side level ten minutes after the break.
The Qantas Under 23’s lynchpin was at it again some seven minutes further on when he slotted his second of the night and fourth against the Mariners from his past three starts – the second time in as many weeks the yellow and navy have reversed a one-goal advantage away from home.
The Mariners’ desperation for at least a share of spoils was exemplified by the introduction of strikers Nik Mrdja and Sasho Petrovski from the bench, giving the Mariners an unprecedented four striking options up front for the closing stages.
Desperation became exasperation when Nigel Boogaard was shown the Mariners’ first red card of season four with only stoppage time left to play, though there would be a further and final twist in the tail.
Petrovski, introduced from the substitutes bench for the first time this campaign, showcased his predatory instincts when sliding home Macallister’s angled shot from close range to confirm the Mariners’ place in the top four for at least another week.
Petrovski’s fifth strike of the season came in the second minute of stoppage time and broke the hearts of the Glory faithful, who until this point looked certain to celebrate what would have been a deserved victory at their home ground fortress.
"We’ll need to improve next week against Queensland," said McKinna. "We have Andrew Clark, Dean Heffernan, Paul O’Grady and Greg Owens all coming back from injury, which is encouraging."