The Central Coast Mariners have continued to make Pluim Park a fortress, defeating Sydney FC 2-1 in Round 21 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition on Sunday.
The first half was as one-sided as they come, with the Mariners registering seven shots to Sydney’s one and controlling the possession.
Lachlan Bayliss picked up where he left off last week with an instant impact in the fourth minute. The Mariners took their free kick quickly and found Bayliss unmarked on the edge of the box. His shot towards the left corner was saved well by Adam Pavlesic.
Bayliss would eventually get his goal in the 32nd minute – a just reward for a strong first half for the home side. Jordan Segreto ran around Kealey Adamson twice before cutting the ball back to Bayliss again unmarked just six yards out from goal, tapping it home with ease to open the scoring in his last match for the Mariners.
In between those Bayliss moments Aydan Hammond also looked lively for the home side, involved in chances created in the 14th, 19th, and 33rd minutes.
Down the other end of the pitch captain Cam Windust and his centre back partner Dean Larson were strong in defence to nullify any Sydney attack. The pair have been fantastic for Abbas Saad this season, and with former Sydney FC defender Nathan Paull on the bench for the Mariners, they knew they had to put on a defensive clinic.
Windust continued his solid showing in the 60th minute, blocking Oscar Fryer’s shot inside the penalty area as Sydney still struggled to create a clear-cut chance despite edging the Mariners for possession.
Louis Agosti found himself in some rare space in the 73rd minute and fired hit shot goalward, but it was comfortable enough for Jack Warshawsky who was searching for his first clean sheet in between the sticks at the Mariners.
Matt Scarcella looked to test the young gloveman from distance in the 75th minute, but his effort was always flying over the bar.
Sydney FC pushed players further forward in search of an equaliser and were shortly undone by a Mariners counterattack in the 81st minute. Lachie Bayliss stated the attack by finding Bailey Brandtman who did well to keep the attack alive. Brandtman found Bayliss who played through Hammond, and he calmly finished his chance.
The Sky Blues were determined to break down the Mariners, though, and Louis Agosti ran into the penalty area and was fouled by Cam Windust, resulting in a penalty. Alen Harbas stepped up and slotted his penalty into the bottom-right corner past Warshawky who guessed the right way.
The Mariners almost added a third in the 87th minute through substitute Bailey Brandtman, but his curled effort went just wide of the post.
The victory for the Mariners sees Pluim Park becoming somewhat of a fortress for Abbas Saad’s team, who says belief is strong when they turn up to a home game.
“I think the boys are really starting to believe and be comfortable here,” he said.
“We know it’s easier to win games here than in Sydney, and I thought we were superb in the first half, we were excellent. They pretty much had nothing, but credit to them, they probably shaded us in the second half.”
Saad also took a moment post-match to reflect on the terrific contribution Lachlan Bayliss has made to the Mariners during his time at the club.
“It was a big day for us because it’s Lachie Bayliss’ last game for us,” Saad said.
“The boys wanted to win it for him. It was a great send off for him by getting on the scoresheet, too.
“He’s helped us all throughout the season. We’re on 29 points because of him – his contribution is second to none.”
Saad also wanted to pay tribute to Sydney FC and their terrific season to date.
“It was a tough game against a very good team. They should be proud of their season as much as I am of ours.
“I love to see all the academy teams doing so well because they are the future of Australian football, and we want all of them to do well.”
Sydney FC manager Jimmy van Weeren echoed Saad’s comments post-game, congratulating the Mariners on turning their season around after a horrible start to the NPL NSW Men’s season.
“I think Abbas has really turned them around and it’s nice to see another academy really competing in this league.
“For us, it’s about developing individual players, and we hope to win some games along the way.”
Winning games is something Sydney FC have done throughout the season, but tonight’s defeat exposed a lack of attacking threat against a strong Mariners defence.
“The first 30 minutes in particular they were the dominant team,” Van Weeren said.
“In the second half I thought we were the dominant team without really creating enough clear-cut chances.
“They were solid at the back. I think we’ve really got to be a bit better in attack in order to create more chances, and there’s some learning and growth opportunities in that.”
Central Coast Mariners Academy 2 (Bayliss 32’, Hammond 81’)
Sydney FC Academy 1 (Harbas 83’p)
Sunday 25th June, 2023
Pluim Park, Lisarow
Referee: Kelly Jones
Assistant Referees: Amirhossein Hosani, Arinath Gobinath
Fourth Official: Jackson Mackie
Central Coast Mariners: 30. Jack Warshawsky (GK), 3. Cameron Windust (c), 4. Dean Larson, 7. Aydan Hammond, 8. Lachlan Bayliss, 14. Marco Arambasic (11. Bailey Brandtman 59’), 15. Jordan Segreto, 16. Will Arnold, 18. George Daniel (9. Zac Waddell 90’), 21. Maksim Kasalovic, 24. Zac Zoricich (5. Nathan Paull 70’)
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Alexander Parkes (GK), 2. Harry Manham, 23. Aidan Milicevic
Yellow Cards: Kasalovic 90+1
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney FC: 30. Adam Pavlesic (GK), 6. Matt Scarcella, 7. Ben Gibson, 8. Kealey Adamson (2. Cameron Fong 46’), 9. Luka Smyth (12. Lachlan Middleton 46’), 10. Alen Harbas, 13. Hayden Matthews (c), 16. Joseph Calusic (14. Ayouk Mow 80’), 21. Louis Agosti, 32. Oscar Fryer (37. Bailey Callaghan 62’), 34. Max Buratto (36. Jacob McLachlan 62’)
Substitutes Not Used: 1. Gus Hoefsloot (GK)
Yellow Cards: Agosti 18’, Calusic 71’, Fong 90+2
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Cameron Windust (CCM)
2 – Lachlan Bayliss (CCM)
1 – Louis Agosti (SFC)
-By Cameron Smith