The Championship hopes of the Western Sydney Wanderers took a blow in the Foxtel National Youth League when they fell to Central Coast Mariners on Sunday.
Following last week’s impressive win putting the Red & Black only two points from first place, expectations were high for a Wanderers team who only a few weeks ago put three goals past the Mariners in a dominant win.
With the duo of Josh Macdonald and Josh Gaspari suspended for the match and an injury to keeper Nick Suman, the starting XI took a vastly different look to previous weeks but it didn’t look to have much of an impact in the early stages of the game.
Finding space on the flanks, the Red & Black looked to have the upper hand and they should have gone ahead after a Central Coast defender used both arms to stop a goal-bound effort from hitting the net.
Incredulously though the referee was unmoved and waved play-on, with the Mariners going on the attack instantly, needing a Keanu Baccus clearance off the line to keep the scores at 0-0.
The deadlock wasn’t to last though as a Wanderers handball in the box saw the referee award Central Coast a spot kick which they dutifully converted for a one goal lead.
Shocked at the unexpected turn of events, the Red & Black failed to respond and were soon 2-0 down as the Mariners’ over-age player Dan Heffernan headed in from a cross.
A Mariners third before half time seemingly made the match appear over but there was a scent of a comeback as Charles Abou Serhal scored on his starting debut to make it 3-1.
It was the play of the day as Mathieu Cordier and Mario Shabow combined out wide to release Liam Youlley in the box.
Youlley, last season’s Foxtel NYL Player of the Year, showed great footwork and vision to tee-up Abou who calmly side-footed the ball home.
Shabow too was on the score sheet soon enough as his blistering finish early in the second half gave hope that the match was salvable but it was not to be as the Mariners finished the match with a flurry of goals.
The 7-2 result does not rule the Wanderers out of the finals but the Red & Black certainly have their work cut out for them, needing to win their remaining three matches and rely on other results to secure a Grand Final appearance.
The biggest challenge comes next week when the Sydney Derby comes to Popondetta Park in Emerton on Sunday 20 December. Kick-off is 4pm.