Mulvey to turn to youth

Mike Mulvey's patience has run out with his Central Coast side, after they claimed an unwanted record with their 2-0 defeat away to Wellington Phoenix.

The Mariners have posted the worst start to an A-League season, with just two points from the opening eight rounds.

Their overall record stands at just one win in their last 26 league games, and Mulvey feels it's time to shake things up with his selections.

Mulvey admits the Gosford club are "way off the pace at the moment", and are being held back by fear.

The Mariners finished bottom of the table last season and risk being cast adrift by the other teams before the turn of the year.

They suffered a sixth consecutive defeat in Wellington, which could be the catalyst to a turn to youth.

Mulvey said: "We do have a plan but we need to now give some of our young lads a bit of a chance and next week [against Newcastle Jets] is a good opportunity to do that."

The Mariners coach said the Mariners were continuing to shoot themselves in the foot, conceding first-half goals against the Phoenix to Louis Fenton and Sarpreet Singh.

"We need to be on the ball, we need to be there in key moments and we weren't today," said Mulvey, who returned as an A-League coach in the off-season four years after being sacked by Brisbane Roar.

"We've got to give the young lads a go," he added. "We had a couple of lads come on towards the end of the game, Josh Macdonald and Mario Shabow and they deserve game time now.

"They don't have any fear; some lads unfortunately get a little bit gripped by fear."

Central Coast are 5/2 to win their next game against Newcastle, who are 1/1 with the draw 13/5.

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Phoenix pass ‘bigger test’

Wellington Phoenix had to adjust to going from huge underdogs to favourites in the space of a week, and did it well, according to coach Mark Rudan.

The Phoenix beat Central Coast 2-0 at Westpac Stadium, earning back-to-back victories after having gone to Sydney FC and won last weekend.

Three defeats from three games during November had suggested that Rudan's side would spend the rest of the campaign in the wrong half of the table, but the coach didn't agree with that assessment.

A performance widely seen as the team turning the corner came on 2nd December when they held leaders Perth to a 1-1 draw in Wellington.

It was only after being reduced to 10 men that the Phoenix conceded a late equaliser against the Glory, and they followed that up with a first-half blitz of Sydney FC last week.

They were 3-0 up against the Sky Blues before the break, and this time in beating the Mariners they again had a comfortable cushion courtesy of goals from Louis Fenton and Sarpreet Singh.

Rudan said that having surprised the reigning premiers away from home, he was very pleased to see his team cope with the unusual challenge of being favourites against the A-League's bottom side.

"We challenged the players at the start of the week. It was a fantastic performance and result last week, but we kept them calm and focused and it was a bigger test this week against a team, for the first time this year, that we were expected to beat," he added.

"That was the most pleasing thing, because it's a mentality more than anything else.

"We've shown that we can do it against the league leaders a couple of weeks ago, we've shown that we can do it away from home, but can we do it at home against a team we were expected to beat and I thought today that was key."

Wellington are 11/8 to win their next game against Brisbane Roar, who are 15/8 with the draw 12/5.

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Mariners make worst start

Central Coast Mariners hit a new low in their 2-0 defeat to Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium.

The Mariners have made the worst start to a season in A-League history, having picked up just two points from eight matches under coach Mike Mulvey.

They had an early chance, which Jordan Murray fired over the top from an acute angle, but trailed by two goals before the break.

Wellington made it two consecutive victories for the first time since April last year, strikes from Louis Fenton and Sarpreet Singh guiding them to a comfortable win.

The home side were rarely troubled at the back, and have now conceded just two goals in the space of three games.

Wellington broke the deadlock inside ten minutes, right wing back Fenton netting just his fifth league goal since February 2016.

Fenton was able to take advantage of having stayed just onside when the rebound from Mandi's long-range shot – deflected on its way to keeper Adam Pearce – fell to him.

Singh doubled the lead in the 45th minute, this time beating Pearce in a one-on-one.

He got his chance after Roy Krishna, released by a low pass from Liberato Cacace, drew two defenders before squaring the ball to him.

Coach Mark Rudan had to substitute defender Michal Kopczynski due to a hamstring injury, slotting Tom Doyle into the back three.

What chances came in the second half, though, were created by Wellington.

Nathan Burns couldn't profit from a couple of opportunities, continuing a goalless drought that has now lasted more than 2000 minutes.

The nearest the Mariners came was when Mario Shabow's long-range effort was palmed away by keeper Filip Kurto.

Central Coast are 5/2 to win their next game against Newcastle, who are 1/1 with the draw 13/5.

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Phoenix seeking rare double

Hard work is the recipe Wellington Phoenix believe can help them build on their impressive away win against Sydney FC.

The Phoenix beat the Sky Blues, who have won the last two Premier's Plates, 3-1 at Jubilee Oval at the weekend and ended a five-game winless run.

They are now level on points with sixth-placed Newcastle Jets, and on paper look to have a great chance of climbing the ladder over the next fortnight.

Their next two games are at home to the bottom two teams, Central Coast and then Brisbane Roar.

If they can beat the Mariners it will be the first time they've achieved back-to-back wins in the same season since April 2017.

But defender Steven Taylor, who scored the third of their goals against the Sky Blues, says coach Mark Rudan's message has been that they can't allow their concentration to slip after that win against Steve Corica's side.

"The manager has made it very clear in the meeting this morning, we have to look to get some back-to-back wins under our belt and obviously build on it," said Taylor.

Rudan has been putting the players through double training sessions this week to ensure they are in the best condition for the Mariners game.

Taylor said: "The manager has been strict and has worked us hard. He knows we've got to maintain the levels we're showing at the moment and the boys are doing it.

"We believe in ourselves and work hard together. You can see the team spirit on and off the pitch, the lads are doing the extras, they're doing the grafting and that's showing."

Keeper Filip Kurton should be available again, after missing the Sydney FC game due to concussion.

Wellington are 11/4 to finish in the top six.

The Phoenix are 3/4 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 7/2 with the draw 11/4.

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McCormack goes back to England

Central Coast striker Ross McCormack has returned to England after picking up a knee injury late last month.

The Scotland international, who is on loan with the Mariners for the whole season, has gone back to parent club Aston Villa for assessment on his injury.

The marquee was injured in the 3-2 defeat away to league leaders Perth Glory, and has missed the past two games.

His absence is a blow for the Gosford club, who have lost five games on the trot and are bottom of the table with just two points from seven matches.

Coach Mike Mulvey said McCormack had flown back to the UK to check in with a specialist, adding: "We expect him back just before Christmas and the best situation we can see at this stage would be having Ross eligible for selection for our New Year's Eve game against Perth Glory."

Saturday's trip to Wellington Phoenix could see the return of young striker Jordan Murray, who has made four substitute appearances so far since signing in the off-season.

Murray scored prolifically in the NPL for APIA Leichhardt, netting 43 goals in 64 games over a two-year stint.

Mulvey said Murray was an exciting prospect who was chomping at the bit and deserved his opportunity.

The Mariners are hoping to have both Tommy Oar and Corey Gameiro back on the field around the turn of the year.

Oar has started running again, following a knee problem, and could play at home to Newcastle on 23rd December, while Gameiro is closing in on his club debut.

Speaking of Gameiro, Mulvey said: "He is working hard to return from a calf injury and we're confident that we will have him back to full team training around that Christmas period."

Central Coast are 6/1 to finish in the top six.

The Mariners are 7/2 to win their next game against Wellington Phoenix, who are 3/4 with the draw 11/4.

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McCormack injury adds to Mariners woes

Already reeling from their worst start to an A-League season, Central Coast now face being without marquee Ross McCormack for at least another month.

Mariners coach Mike Mulvey has revealed McCormack, who is on a season-long loan from Aston Villa, needs to see a surgeon after aggravating a knee problem.

The Scottish striker has missed the past two games, including Friday's 2-0 defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers, after an awkward fall during training a fortnight ago.

The club originally said it was a minor bone bruising, but Mulvey says the problem is worse than that.

"Ross McCormack is probably out for about four to five weeks, he's tweaked his knee. He's seeing the surgeon on Monday," said the coach after the Wanderers match. "We'll work out a plan for him to get back."

The Gosford club have lost five games in a row and have just two points from the opening seven rounds.

If they lose next week against fellow strugglers Wellington Phoenix it will represent the worst start to a season by any A-League team.

Mulvey was sacked by Brisbane Roar after a poor start to the 2014/15 season, just months after he had guided them to the A-League double.

He's far from the first coach to struggle at Central Coast, who have had four men in charge since Graham Arnold left in 2013 – none of Phil Moss, Tony Walmsley or Paul Okon were a success.

Mulvey said he wasn't disappointed with the effort his side put in against Wanderers at Spotless Stadium.

"These players are giving everything they've got," he added. "There's no fear factor for us, we need to address our deficiencies which we're doing on a daily basis.

"We need a confidence builder and that comes from winning a game. It doesn't get any easier, there is no easy game in the A-League so we need to front up to Wellington next week and really give it to them."

The Mariners are 3/1 to win their next game against Wellington Phoenix, who are 10/11 with the draw 5/2.

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Baccus blast helps Wanderers claim win

A clinical finish from Keanu Baccus put Western Sydney on their way to a 2-0 win at home to bottom side Central Coast Mariners.

Baccus struck with a fizzing low shot from outside the area three minutes into added time at the end of the first half, giving Wanderers a big psychological boost.

The Mariners, who had had decent chances in the first half, weren't able to respond and slumped to their fifth consecutive defeat.

Jaushua Sotirio fired in a second goal midway through the second half for Western Sydney as they claimed the three points at Spotless Stadium, moving them into the top six.

The visitors would have felt unlucky not to be ahead when Baccus struck, having seen both Michael McGlinchey and Connor Pain denied by keeper Vedran Janjetovic.

Baccus took a good first touch to set himself up for his powerful drive beyond the dive of Ben Kennedy to put the hosts in front with virtually the last kick of the half.

Markus Babbel's side went onto secure just their second clean sheet of the campaign, helped by the presence of veteran defender Patrick Ziegler on his league debut.

Western Sydney were dominant in the second half and doubled their lead on 68 minutes. Bruce Kamau's shot from 18 yards was blocked by Kennedy but the rebound went just far enough to give Jaushua Sotirio the chance to bury a follow-up effort underneath the keeper.

Babbel acknowledged it had been a risk to put Ziegler straight into the starting line-up against the Mariners, after he'd been sidelined for more than two months.

"But the game was too important today," he said. "Patrick is a top-class player; if he's on the pitch, players around him feel more confident, feel better and for me, it was clear that he can play a top performance.

Wanderers are 13/5 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 19/20 with the draw 13/5.

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Ziegler to return against bottom side

German defender Patrick Ziegler will make his first league game for Western Sydney as they bid to end a two-game losing skid against Central Coast on Friday.

Ziegler played two FFA Cup games for Markus Babbel's side after arriving from Kaiserslautern, but has been on the sidelines for almost two months with a knee injury.

Babbel will bring him back against the Mariners after opting not to give the 28-year-old a run out in the club's National Youth League game last week due to the match being on a synthetic pitch.

Ziegler is short of match minutes but Western Sydney need him back after conceding six goals over their last two matches, in defeats to Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory.

With Babbel having described the game against defending champions Victory as "men against boys", the experience of Ziegler who played 59 games for Kaiserslautern should bring more solidity to the centre of their defence.

It's not certain he will play the full 90 minutes against the A-League's bottom side but he is expected to start.

Babbel said: "He's a top class defender, he will help us a lot because he brings out [the best] for the players around him, he is like an anchor.

"I hope he can show his performance; I know how difficult it is but we need him now and he's a top defender. I believe he will show his performance and he will help the team win three points."

Though the coach was critical of his team's showing against Victory, he felt they had done well in their previous outing against the Jets and had been unlucky to lose.

"We played a fantastic style of football and we did many, many things right, more things than wrong and we lost this game," said Babbel. "This can happen; the mentality and how we played was there."

Western Sydney are 12/1 to win the Grand Final.

Wanderers are 3/5 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 17/4 with the draw 10/3.

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Corica seeking Sky Blues response

Sydney FC boss Steve Corcia believes a trip to bottom side Central Coast will give his team a good chance of responding after their first defeat of the season.

The Sky Blues travel to face the Mariners – the only team without a win after the opening five rounds of the campaign – on the back of their 2-1 loss to Melbourne Victory.

Corica is expecting an immediate reply from his players, having seen them bounce back last month when they beat Melbourne City immediately after losing their FFA Cup final against Adelaide United.

"We've had a good start to the season and that's what we want to do, we want to win games," said Corica, who replaced Graham Arnold in the job after the club retained the Premier's Plate in 2017-18.

"It's another challenge for us after losing last week and how we respond to that, how the boys respond and how they come back from a loss.

"We've done it in the cup, we lost in the cup and we responded fantastically well in the game against City so I expect the same performance as that; the mood is great, the boys know they need to get on with it."

Corica has to do without Daniel De Silva for the Gosford clash as the on-loan youngster can't play against his parent club.

Mariners coach Mike Mulvey has to contend with the absence of defender Kalifa Cisse, who was sent off in injury time in the team's defeat to league leaders Perth Glory last weekend.

The Sky Blues have seen off-season recruit Adam le Fondre make an immediate impact, with eight goals in eight games.

Corica said of the English striker: "First and foremost is the hard work he puts in upfront, he works very hard defensively and that's great for us, he leads by example up front and obviously he's scoring goals as well which is great for us."

The Sky Blues are 4/7 to beat Central Coast, who are 5/1 with the draw 3/1.

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Mariners sunk in injury time

Perth Glory needed an injury-time goal from Chris Ikonomidis to win their clash with bottom side Central Coast Mariners 3-2.

The A-League leaders had twice been pegged back by Mike Mulvey's side at nib Stadium, before Ikonomidis netted five minutes into added time.

It was the striker's second goal of the game, after he had given the Glory a 12th-minute lead against the side who have only earned two points from their opening five games.

Neil Kilkenny had a hand in all three Perth goals, starting when he lobbed a ball through for the opener to pick out Joel Chianese on the right side of the area, with Ikonomidis on hand to finish off his volley from close range.

The Mariners got a slice of luck for their first equaliser, nine minutes before the interval. Andrew Hoole played a nice ball into the box bound for Ross McCormack but Tomislav Mrcela, trying to intervene, could only tip the ball past his own keeper Liam Reddy.

Kilkenny's ball into the box on the hour mark gave Shane Lowry the chance to climb and head home a goal that put the Glory back in front.

But just seven minutes later the visitors drew level for a second time when on-loan Aiden O'Neill fired a first-time strike into the top corner from 25 yards out.

That looked like it would earn a point for last season's wooden spoon side, but with time almost up Kilkenny produced a superb cross that picked out Ikonomidis at the far post and he fired into the top of the net.

The Mariners had Kalifa Cisse sent off in injury time when he received his second yellow card of the night.

Mulvey said: "At the end of the day, absolutely gutted for the boys because they put in a great shift today. We've not quite got it right, we're still conceding goals where the opposition doesn't need to do too much.

The Mariners are 5/1 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 11/20, with the draw 3/1.

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