Unbeaten run halted on glitter strip

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 05: Nicky Travis of the Mariners (R) is pressured by the United defence during the round 17 A-League match between the Gold Coast United and the Central Coast Mariners at Skilled Park on December 5, 2009 in Gold Coast, Australia.  (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Nicky Travis

The Mariners were coming off a seven week streak without losing, while the Gold Coast were aiming to bounce back from a 4-nil thrashing at the hands of Melbourne, and both sides had the opportunity to create a three point buffer for the top three on the ladder.
Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna admits the three points were there for the taking, after leading for so long.
?Speaking to the boys after the game, we felt like we were in full control and under no pressure whatsoever.
?The first goal, Brad Porter tried to steal a ball when he probably didn?t need to, then the cross has come in and it was a typical Smeltz goal.
?The second goal was Heff?s (Dean Heffernan). It was a bad pass back, they capitalized on it and got a tap in, so we definitely gave it away, because it was comfortable,? McKinna said.
Both sides understood the importance of three points as teams at the top continue to aim to break clear of the chasing pack, and it produced a cagey opening to the clash, with chances few and far between.
It took eleven minutes for the Central Coast to go on their first meaningful attack, Michael McGlinchey playing a neat one-two with Dean Heffernan, who took the ball to the byline before winning a corner when his cross was intercepted.
Gold Coast United was searching for a way past the Mariners resolute defence, which has conceded just once in its past four outings, but the yellow and navy was proving equal to the task, Pedj Bojic, Nigel Boogaard and Brad Porter making important early clearances.
Porter unleashed an effort from just over 20 yards on 18 minutes which sailed wide, and Nicky Travis sent a free kick directly to Jess Vanstratten two minutes later as the visitors began to show their intent.
Travis was involved again as he fired a low shot wide on 22 minutes, while at the other end, Danny Vukovic had to be on his toes to deny Shane Smeltz after an impressive turn and shot.
Zenon Caravella sent a powerful effort wide on 36 minutes and it seemed only a matter of time before someone would break the deadlock, thankfully for the strong contingent of over one-hundred travelling Mariners? fans, it was the visitors to do so.
McGlinchey won a corner and took the set piece quickly, his short ball to Travis was looped toward the back post, and Simon showed great strength to shrug off Kristian Rees and fire a header inside Vanstratten?s far stick.
Tahj Minniecon saw a free kick deflected as the clock wound down, but the Central Coast was able to maintain its slender advantage at the break.
Porter had a good chance to increase the advantage soon after the restart when Simon fed a ball into the area, but the Kanwal junior?s initial touch was a little heavy, and ended up safely in the arms of Vanstratten.
Ahmad Elrich went agonizingly close to his second goal of the campaign just before the hour, when he flicked on a Hutchinson free kick from the right channel, only to see the header float marginally wide of the back post.
With the Mariners holding the one goal buffer, things quickly turned sour for Lawrie McKinna?s men, as Caravella played a good ball for Andrew Barisic, who beat his man to take the ball to the byline, and deliver a cross which was headed home by Smeltz at the back post.
The hosts were denied a second just four minutes later by the assistant referee, who ruled Smeltz finished from an offside position, after Danny Vukovic did well to block Barisic?s original shot.
Pedj Bojic stepped up to a free kick on the edge of the area on 75 minutes, and while his shot had almost everything going for it, it was perhaps too straight for Vanstratten, who did well to tip it over the bar.
Seconds later, the hosts took the lead, when a Dean Heffernan pass was intercepted by Smeltz, the New Zealand international laid off for Culina, who attempted to curl a right footed effort around Vukovic, and while the Mariners? custodian pulled off a fine diving save, the loose ball fell to Barisic, who tucked it away.
The hosts seemed to find another gear and went looking for a third, but the Central Coast defence was able to resist the waves of attack, and could have had a dramatic late equaliser, after Nicky Travis appeared to cop a forearm in the back as he contested a header inside the area, however referee Green ruled there wasn?t any contact, meaning the Mariners would ultimately leave Skilled Park empty handed.
“Coming here and dominating a large part of the game and to be in control when they basically had a full team out there, the boys handled it well,” said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.
“Everything we wanted to do well we did, the only thing we could have done when we had them in the second half and were comfortable was be a little bit more ruthless. We were very comfortable with the ball instead of maybe going for it.
?We just have to take the positive stuff out. Heff?s not going to make a mistake like that again, and nine times out of ten the defence is going to show the strikers away from goal and not try to steal it.
?On another night we could have gone on and won two or three nil quite comfortably, but it?s a cruel game sometimes, and we feel as though it was cruel to us tonight,” said McKinna.
The Mariners? next home match of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season will be against Melbourne Victory on Saturday, 12 December. Kick-off is at 7:00pm. Tickets for this match are available online at www.ticketek.com.au or by phoning 132 849.
Mariners Four Match Christmas Packs for the remainder of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season are now available online at www.ccmariners.com.au <http://www.ccmariners.com.au > or by phoning 1300 767 442.
Match Details

Central Coast Mariners: 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 4. Pedj BOJIC 5. Brad PORTER (15. Andrew CLARK 77?), 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. Matt SIMON, 21. Ahmad ELRICH (23. Adam KWASNIK 72?), 22. Nicky TRAVIS.

Unused Subs
1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 2. Matthew CROWELL.
Yellow Cards Heffernan 40?
Red Cards None
Goals Simon 39?

Gold Coast United:
1. Jess VANSTRATTEN (GK), 2. Steve PANTELIDIS, 3. Michael THWAITE, 7. Zenon CARAVELLA, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Jason CULINA (C), 13. Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 15. Tahj MINNIECON (18. James BROWN 65?), 16. Kristian REES, 23. Steve FITZSIMMONS (19. Andrew BARISIC 60?), 24. Anderson ALVES DA SILVA.
Unused Subs 20. Scott HIGGINS (GK), 17. Matt OSMAN.
Yellow Cards Rees 74?, Culina 86?
Red Cards None
Goals Smeltz 68?, Barisic 76?

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