The Central Coast Mariners lack of fitness and availability cost them two vital points against a 10-man Melbourne City in Gosford last night.

With a 1-0 lead after 15 minutes and a numerical advantage for two-thirds of the game, the Mariners managed to give up the lead twice to a determined City side. For Paul Okon and his men chances at points like these are too valuable to give up and questions need to be asked of the teams engine and drive.

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“We had too many out there that couldn’t go the distance and we were forced to make changes too early,” said Okon of his side’s effort.

The lack of fitness showed in a game where City dominated for large patches despite being a man down for the bulk of play.

The draw comes on the back of a seven game winless streak in a season where Okon has often been unable to field his strongest side. On top of injuries the Mariners also lost three players in Thomas Glover, Daniel De Silva and Trent Buhagiar to the Australian under-23 side for their AFC Championship tournament in China.

This left the side undermanned at a time in the season where everyone is desperate for points.

Despite the missing pieces the Mariners had enough chances to win the game with Brazilian import Asdrubal missing a particularly egregious chance.

“I wouldn’t even call that a chance,” said Okon.

“That’s a goal. That should be a goal. And that sort of leaves it open and it gives the opposition a bit of hope and they were able to bring on fresh legs.”

In fairness to the striker it was his first game back in several weeks but that’s little consolation a Mariners side that are quickly slipping out of finals contention.  

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Mercifully for the Mariners the Australian under-23 side suffered a 1-0 defeat against Vietnam ahead of a vital third game against Asian powerhouses South Korea.

Should Australia crash out of the tournament early then the Mariners will receive reinforcements in the shape of De Silva, Buhagiar and Glover but questions will still need to be asked about how they let two leads slip against an under manned and underwhelming Melbourne City side.

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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.