After a horrid start to the 2017/18 A-League competition the Central Coast Mariners have now put together back-to-back wins and look to be a team on the rise.

However, Mariners coach Paul Okon isn’t interested in hearing any of the praise that’s coming from outside his locker room.

There’s an old mantra amongst professional athletes: ‘people are going to say good things and they’re going to say bad things. Ignore both because neither are helpful.’ That seems to be the message Okon has for his team.

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“We didn’t listen at the start when they said ‘same old Mariners.’ We didn’t listen to it then so we’re not going to listen to it now,” said Okon. “We know that we’re a very good football team. We know we can compete.”

The Mariners now have three wins in four games and have moved off the bottom of the table and into the top four. That stretch of games includes a demolition of Wellington Phoenix and an impressive scalp of the table topping Sydney FC.

Much of their recent form can be attributed to an improved defensive unit. Okon’s men had conceded 10 goals in their opening four games but have since reduced it to just three goals in the last five games.

“We were so disappointed in the first few rounds with the way we gave away goals. It was totally the opposite of how it was going in the preseason,” said Okon. “We just kept working on it and tweaked a few things. We know that if we can keep clean sheets that we’re going to score goals and we’re exciting going forward. We’re going to create opportunities.”

The question now is whether or not the Gosford side can perform on a consistent basis to keep the pace setting trio of Newcastle, Melbourne City and Sydney within reach. However, even that sort of talk is premature for Okon.

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“I don’t think we’re there as a football club to be looking too far ahead,” said Okon. “It can change very quickly and as a football club we’re conscious of where we’re at. We know what we’re good at and we know where we need to improve.”

Keeping the team humble and focused is probably a good strategy for Okon as their next game is an away trip to third placed Melbourne City. Yet, if they can get a result there then perhaps even Okon will start to think about the future.

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Football fan, writer, and post-grad journalism student at the University of Technology Sydney. Joined the team in 2017 to cover Sydney FC and the Central Coast Mariners.