Goals were at a premium for both the Mariners and their opponents, who performed stoically to deny the reigning Hyundai A-League Premiers their fourth straight Central Coast Challenge Cup success.
Despite the unlikely stalemate, the Mariners will have benefited greatly from a tough hit out against a quality opponent, particularly given the encouraging debuts of new recruits Ahmad Elrich and Dylan Macallister and the promising first sightings of a number of National Youth League prospects.
The Mariners were barely a resemblance of the eleven that took to the field against the Newcastle Jets in February?s Hyundai A-League decider at the Sydney Football Stadium, with John Hutchinson and Alex Wilkinson the only season three regulars remaining at the final whistle.
Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna handed opportunities to seven triallists throughout the course of the evening and all displayed potential in their collective bids to earn a place in the Central Coast?s season four senior line up, or inaugural National Youth League representation.
The match was played out in front of a bumper Pluim Park attendance of some 2,000 spectators, each of whom braved the mid-week cold offered by the spiritual home of Central Coast football.
“It was a good hit out, we had six young boys on in the second half and some of them did well, overall it was a good crowd, a good hit out and we can build on that,” said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.
“Last year we had a lot of games like this, which put us in good shape for the start of the season and the same goes for this year ? we need to be playing games, we?ve got a big year ahead of us, so this preparation is very good.”
Macallister, who was substituted at the break, was the Mariners? standout performer of the opening stanza, laying on a series of delightful touches in the final third and, most notably, striking the crossbar with a diving header midway through the half.
Fellow newcomer Elrich was a busy contributor throughout ? lasting the full ninety minutes and showcasing some of the quality Mariners Members and supporters can expect to see in abundance in later months.
At the other end of the pitch, central pairing Andrew Clark and Wilkinson were assured, while goalkeeper Matthew Trott was confident when called upon.
Midfield duo John Hutchinson and Bradley Porter loomed most likely to pierce open the Lightning?s composed backline, but were ultimately unable to land a telling blow despite both producing overwhelmingly positive performances.
“Dylan Macallister had to come off because of a knock to his right ankle, but he hit the post and their ?keeper made a couple of good saves ? he could have easily had three goals in the first half, but he did very well and worked hard,” said McKinna.
“Ahmad, I don?t think he got enough of the ball, he was open a lot of times and didn?t get it, but that?s a new player for you ? he did well, made some nice touches and looked really sharp going forward.
“Overall, I was happy with the performance.”
The Mariners continue their pre-season trial match program against reigning NSW State League 1 Champions Spirit FC at Christie Park next Wednesday, 28 May. Kick off is at 7.30pm.
Central Coast Mariners 1. Matthew Trott (gk), 2. David D?Apuzzo (6. Anthony Villazon 46′), 4. Ian McAndrew (9. Nathan Moseley 57′), 5. Bradley Porter (10. Nathan Ralph 62′), 7. John Hutchinson, 15. Andrew Clark, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Adam Kwasnik (17. Ben Glachan 75′), 21. Ahmad Elrich, 22. Sasho Petrovski (16. Brady Smith 62′), 27. Dylan Macallister (13. Nathan Sherlock 46′)
Unused Subs 11. Damien Brown
Yellow Cards None
Red Cards None
Central Coast Lightning 18. Troy Ward (gk), 4. Jamie Lobb, 5. Matt Wilkinson, 6. Luke Walker, 7. Nathan Moseley, 9. Paul McGinley, 12. Xavier Forsberg, 14. Darren Cooper, 15. Neil Woodcock, 16. Keenan Crumm, 24. Brady Smith
Substitutes 1. Mitchell Stubbs (gk), 3. Tony Cornwall, 20. Mitch Harper, 23. Josh Hall, 30. Eric Koelma, 31. Scott McGinley, 33. Luke McWaide
Yellow Cards None
Red Cards None
Referee Kris Griffiths-Jones
-By Benjamin Coonan