The Central Coast Mariners came into season 2018/19 full of optimism, fresh faces, and expectations.

During the off-season, newly appointed manager Mike Mulvey declared that the period of mediocrity was over for the Yellow and Navy. Unfortunately for Mulvey and the Mariners, that sort of continued for the first half of the season.

And by sort of, I mean it definitely did.

It hasn’t been all bad for the Mariners, though, as they have performed well in games this past month and have been unlucky not to take away more points.

The playing squad appear to still be working hard for each other, and the small, yet passionate crowd on the Central Coast are still behind their team.

Semester summary: Disappointing, but not without hope. The Central Coast Mariners came within an inch of equalling the record for the largest winless streak, set by the New Zealand Knights back in season one of the A-League with 11 matches played without a win. They did, however, break the record for the worst start to an A-League campaign. Perhaps not a record to brag about.

After a solid two points from two games to start the campaign, the Mariners then went on to lose every game for the remainder of 2018, despite leading matches along the way. The real turning point in the season came against Sydney FC in round 11 where they had Sydney on the back foot. That was, until experienced defender Kalifa Cisse was sent off in the 26th minute. But for those 26 minutes, the Mariners played some of the best football they had played in a very long time. They managed to replicate the performance the following week in Wellington but still failed to get a win until the following match at home to Melbourne City.

Despite the horror start, the Mariners look like they are finally playing the type of football they and their fans expected at the start of the season.

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Areas of excellence: Although the results have not been going the Mariners’ way so far this season, the squad togetherness has been very impressive to watch. It threatened to unfold after Cisse’s send off against Sydney where he exchanged some passionate words with assistant coach Nick Montgomery as he walked off. Luckily for the Mariners, it didn’t prove to be a turning point with the squad fighting even harder given their excellent start to the match.

Mike Mulvey has expressed many times this season how important a close squad is and speaking to Connor Pain both pre-season and throughout the campaign, he admits that it is something that can never be in question and something the team are proud of.

Areas in need of improvement: Defence. Mike Mulvey conceded that the Mariners could potentially see two defensive signings this transfer window as he recognises their tendency to leak goals is a major issue. They have held the lead in eight of their matches this season but have only managed to win one of them, highlighting their failure to keep an opposition scoreless.

Mulvey has also been critical in recent weeks of his side conceding goals from corners and set-pieces. This is an area the Mariners need to really work on if they are to climb up the A-League ladder.

Top student: There are some very honourable mentions within this team, including Connor Pain for his goal scoring threat and Matt Simon for the way he motivates his team and leads from the front, but the top student so far for the Mariners is Matt Millar. New to the team this year, Millar signed with the club from Victorian NPL side South Melbourne.

After being handed his first start for the Mariners in a tight 3-2 defeat at Perth, Millar hasn’t looked back, scoring one goal and assisting four. His powerful running down the right-hand side and good decision making in the final third has made him a weapon for the Central Coast this season.

He only signed a one-year deal, so the Mariners will be wanting to renew his contract ASAP as he has been a stand out for the league, not just the Central Coast.

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Class clown: Another few honourable mentions here, too. Ross McCormack was underwhelming in the five games he played for the club, Michael McGlinchey has been the shadow of a player he once was with the Mariners, too. But the class clown so far this season goes to Kalifa Cisse.

He started the campaign brilliantly and even led the Alex Tobin Award points tally early in the season. But unfortunately for Cisse his performances dipped and that resulted in him being dropped from the squad entirely for two weeks straight.

He returned to the starting line-up keen to prove himself against Sydney FC, until the 35-year-old defender did the unthinkable and received two yellow cards in just three minutes.

He looks as though he is trying to rectify his mistake in training but he is yet to feature in a squad by Mike Mulvey since the incident with Mulvey even preferring to play central midfielder Aiden O’Neill in the back line over Cisse.

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Grade: F. Although some performances haven’t been as bad as the results may appear, the disappointing first half of the season can’t be anything more than a fail.

After promising to be competitive yet again and hinting that finals was the target and expectation within the club, being bottom of the ladder halfway through the season is far from ideal.

Outlook: As mentioned, the Mariners have been playing some very nice football this past month and a fresh wave of optimism is hitting the club following their drought-breaking win against fourth placed Melbourne City.

The poor results at the start of the season shadowed an equally poor season from the Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers, who appear to be in a three-way battle with the Mariners to avoid the wooden spoon. A few poor results could even see the Newcastle Jets drop into that battle, too.

The point there being, although they have only won the one game this season, the Mariners still have a chance of climbing the A-League ladder if they can sort their defensive woes out.

With a number of fresh faces expected to arrive on the Central Coast this month, they could be the boost the Mariners need to jump off the bottom of the table.

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Media student at Macquarie University. Loves everything football (well, except Italian's diving since '06).