Match Preview: Mariners v Wanderers

Sunday afternoon football will once again involve the Wanderers as they make the short trip north to Gosford to face off against the Central Coast Mariners.

The Wanderers could move level on points with their opponents on the weekend if they take all three points, which would be particularly crucial given they have played a game less than the Mariners.

Central Coast – last year’s champions – are one of the form teams in the competition, though, having recently embarked on a 12 game unbeaten run in the league that saw them move from the bottom of the table all the way to second place.

This run did come to an end last week against our crosstown rivals, as a poor first 45 minutes saw them 3-0 down at the break, and despite an Angel Torres goal in the second half, they were ultimately defeated 3-1.

The Wanderers were also staring down the barrel of defeat at home to the Newcastle Jets; in a back and forth game that saw the Wanderers reduced to nine men – they were 3-2 down at the beginning of stoppage time, but a massive captains goal for Marcelo secured a deserved share of the points for the Red and Black in difficult circumstances.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 06: Marcelo of the Wanderers attempt for the Header during the A-League Men round 11 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners at CommBank Stadium, on January 06, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Izhar Khan/Getty Images)

In addition to the sending off’s of Tate Russell and Jorrit Hendrix, the Wanderers only had one fit centre back in Marcelo and also had to play fourth choice goalkeeper Taiga Harper in his A-League Men’s debut due to a late injury to Lawrence Thomas, and despite conceding an early goal, he recovered to make several key saves during the game.

Lachie Brook was the star of the show once again going forward as he bagged a double to take his tally to seven goals in the league and 12 goals overall, whilst a huge boost for the Wanderers saw Brandon Borrello return off the bench after nearly three months out with a broken foot.

Despite the positives in grabbing a late point, it still represented frustrating points dropped at home, and they won’t have it easy against the Mariners who have the best home record in the league.

The Mariners resurgence has been led by import winger Angel Torress, who has 11 goals and three assists in all competitions, whilst January signing Ryan Edmonson scored a hat-trick in midweek AFC Cup action.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 06: Milo Ninkovic (L) of the Wanderers controls the ball during the A-League Men round 11 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners at CommBank Stadium, on January 06, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Izhar Khan/Getty Images)

The Mariners currently have the best attack in the league, scoring 32 goals in 17 games, though the Wanderers will be hoping to take advantage of any potential fatigue Central Coast will be suffering after their AFC Cup clash against Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

The Wanderers have selection problems of their own, with Jorrit Hendrix and Tate Russell suspended, and the likes of Alex Bonetig and Lawrence Thomas racing to recover from injuries that kept them out of last week’s clash; the absence of Hendrix will hit hard as he can cover at both centre back and in midfield.

Josh Brillante and Oscar Priestman will probably line up in the middle of the park where they will look to keep last season’s Johnny Warren Medalist Josh Nisbet quiet, whilst Brook will look to continue his hot run of form up front.

The sides have already faced off once this season, with the Mariners coming away with a narrow 1-0 win at CommBank Stadium thanks to a Torres long range effort.

Despite that result, the Wanderers are still well ahead on the head-to-head ledger, having 15 wins compared to the nine obtained by the Mariners, with 10 matches between the sides ending in draws.

This included the last meeting at Industree Group Stadium, where a thrilling end to end match ended 2-2.