Finally the Central Coast Mariners could tell a different story, drawing 2-2 after an incredible comeback against Sydney FC at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday.

Desperate for three points to make the top six, the visitors were counting on a strong recovery after returning from a 1-0 AFC Champions League victory against the Pohang Steelers in South Korea.

Arnie’s men pounced on a reshuffled Mariners who were missing their marquee Luis Garcia along with speedy winger Mitch Austin thanks to red cards in Perth last week. For Sydney however, playing in cruise control wasn’t enough to take home the win.

Youngster George Blackwood opened the scoring with a cracking strike and a debut A-League goal.

Japanese referee Koichiro Fukushima was fond of the whistle, treating fans to a stop-start first half that not only had Josh Bingham throwing a tantrum over a controversial handball, but landed Josh Rose his third yellow card booking this season.

The Mariners copped the full brunt of the tough adjudicators, with an offside call against Liam Rose disallowing a goal by Roy O’Donovan that would have evened the score.

The home side’s goalie made an impressive save late into the first half, but to no avail with the Mariners losing focus and allowing Sydney to score another by Shane Smeltz just minutes before the half time siren. The New Zealand striker celebrated in honour of his late agent who passed away from a stroke on Friday night.

Sydney FC looked to take their foot off the pedal in the final ten minutes of the first half to give the Mariners a play at the ball, but in the end Walmsley’s men headed to the sheds 2-0 at the break.

Francesco Stella took to the midfield in the second half replacing captain Monty who took to the bench with an injured calf. Smeltz was denied his second from none other than Harry Ascroft who made a spectacular save on the line from a shot that looked destined for the back of the net.

Sydney’s goalscorer Blackwood was replaced with Matt Simon’s fresh legs; the former Central Coast junior was in doubt at kick-off after being administered oxygen due to a reaction from painkillers taken for cracked ribs.

After a slew of missed opportunities by Ferreira, Bingham and Stella, it was new father O’Donovan who made the finish for the home side just before full time. The goal gave the Mariners a burst of new life, with Ascroft scoring his third for the side moments later in extra time.

A draw was just as good as a victory for the Mariners who faced losing their seventh in a row. The Sky Blues will take the result to heart with tough fixtures in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to finish off their last three rounds this home-and-away season.

Sydney FC: 1.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 2.Seb RYALL, 6.Rob STAMBOLZIEV, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 13.Brandon O’NEILL, 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.Jacques FATY, 20.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 22.Ali ABBAS, 23.Rhyan GRANT, 24. George BLACKWOOD, 27.Mickael TAVARES

Central Coast Mariners: 1.Paul IZZO (gk), 3.Josh ROSE, 4.Jacob POSCOLIERO, 5.Harry ASCROFT, 7.Fabio FERREIRA, 8.Nick MONTGOMERY (c), 9.Roy O’DONOVAN, 12.Trent BUHAGIAR, 15.Brad McDONALD, 16.Liam ROSE, 17.Francesco STELLA, 19.Josh BINGHAM, 21.Michael NEILL, 22.Jake McGING, 28.Matthew FLETCHER,

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A 20 year old Media and Law student trying to tame those stream-of-consciousness writing habits with an ickle bit of fun at the Central Coast Mariners.