A-League mid-season report card: Central Coast Mariners

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It is that time of year where The Football Sack critiques everything Central Coast Mariners as the season hits the halfway point.

Semester summary: It has been a roller coaster season so far for Alen Stajcic and the Mariners with the club seeing highs, such as defeating last year’s premiers away from home, but experiencing the lows of suffering four defeats in their last five games. The club sits in tenth place on the A-League ladder, only one point above rivals Newcastle Jets. It is not all doom and gloom for the community club as only five points separate them from the top six. With every positive however, there seems to be a negative as the team still struggles to score goals despite playing positive football. The squad has quality in most areas of the pitch, it is just finding that much-needed execution.

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Areas of excellence: Despite sitting near the bottom of the ladder, the club has goalkeeper Mark Birighitti to thank for a lot of their results. Birighitti has so far made 49 saves this season, the most in the league as of round 13. One of his most notable games was his man-of-the-match performance in the side’s 1-0 victory over new boys Western United. Another notable area is the club’s ability to play pretty football and their build-up play. They outplayed Sydney FC in their round ten fixture and were unlucky to not go home with at least a point.

Areas in need of improvement: As stated in the season preview, the Mariners lacked quality in the final third and it is still a problem for the yellow and navy. They have brought in former Jets player Jair, who so far has only played four games but has yet to hit the back of the net. Jordan Murray is the only out-and-out striker to have scored this season, but has only netted the one goal. If the Mariners want to climb the ladder they have to score or there will be more frustrating games where fans will be asking “what if?”

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Top student: Milan Ðurić has been arguably the Mariners’ best outfield player this season and maybe a shout for signing of the season. The Serbian is an absolute workhorse in the midfield and seems to be a major cog in Stajcic’s squad. From a consistent work rate to absolute screamers from long range, Ðurić has been the pick of the bunch for the yellow and navy.

Class clown: It has been a tough season for Daniel De Silva. The creative midfielder has yet to hit the heights that earned him a move to Europe several years ago. He made a slow start under Stajcic but has had a few glimpses of what he is capable of in an attacking role. However, with only one goal and assist this season, more will be expected from De Silva as we enter the second half of the season.

Grade: D+

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Outlook: Despite having suffered seven defeats this season the Mariners have not been outplayed in majority of them, even being unlucky not to get a draw out of some of them.

The side has shown several times already that it has the resilience to hold on to a slender lead for the three points; it is just the strikers needing to convert their chances. Whether the plan is to hope Jair finds his feet within the squad or to give an opportunity to a youth player such as Dylan Ruiz-Diaz, time is slowly running out.

With the table set up like it is, only a couple of wins for the Mariners will see them rocket up the table and with crunch fixtures against Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar coming up, a winning mentality is what the club needs.

Feature image credit: Glenn Pokorney

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James Watts
Love everything about football, even when your team loses after being 2-0 up in a certain Grand Final!