An F3 derby with higher stakes than ever

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It’s do-or-die for both Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets on Saturday evening with a win crucial for their push towards the finals.

Sitting eighth on the A-League Men table, the Mariners are one win from moving into the top six.

With four games in hand – including their clash with the Jets – they must continue their successful recent form to break into the finals for their second consecutive season.

Coach Nick Montgomery knows how important Saturday evening’s game will be.

“Four games to go and we’ve got a couple games in hand on a few teams above us. But I’ve said it numerous times that it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a game at hand unless you win it,” he said.

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The 55th instalment of the derby will not only boost either sides finals chances, but will statistically determine the better side.

From 54 matches, both sides are locked at 18 wins, 18 losses, and 18 draws. Each have also scored and conceded exactly 65 goals.

Defender Storm Roux acknowledged such factors only heighten the intensity of the match.

“Three points gets us into that top-six spot, meaning this game is bigger than normal,” said Roux.

“It will make it extra special to knock them out of contention.”

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A player in focus for Montgomery’s men will be Newcastle forward Daniel Penha, who has four goals and 11 assists to his name during his inaugural A-League Men season.

While the Mariners are coming off a clinical defensive display in their 4-0 thrashing of Wellington Phoenix, they will still need to be weary of Penha’s ability to turn the game on its head.

Both Montgomery and Roux admitted their caution toward the Brazilian star.

“He’s with out a doubt the best player in the league. You only just have to see his statistics on his goals and assists,” said Montgomery.

“He’s a weapon and we’ve been focused on him in the lead-up to the game as to how to keep him quiet,” added Roux.

“We’re going to have to keep wraps on him if we want the three points.”

One of the youngest squads in the competition, the Mariners’ academy players have been a major talking point during this season.

One youngster in particular, 17-year-old Garang Kuol, has put the league on notice during his few games with Mariners.

The Mariners’ all-action football is exciting fans as to the future of their football. Montgomery holds belief in his youngsters like to Kuol to get the job done, especially in this crucial stage of the season.

“People have seen him come off the bench and score and assisted and he’s pushing to start,” said Montgomery.

“Every time he comes on he makes an impact. Attacking wise he’s very dangerous and is a player you want to give license to go at defenders.”

Central Coast haven’t won back-to-back games away from home this season but if they can do just that against the Jets on Saturday, they’ll take a giant step towards finals football.

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Mitchell Roese
Sports enthuse currently studying a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney. Covering the Central Coast Mariners 2021/22 A-League Season

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