Wanderers fall to narrow defeat against Mariners

An undermanned Wanderers side fought hard but ultimately fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat against the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford on Sunday.

In a game where the Wanderers were missing seven players due to injury and suspension – with Marcus Antonsson forced from the field after half an hour – the boys were looking likely to hold on for a valiant point, before the Mariners converted a spot kick seven minutes from time to secure all three points.

With Jean-Paul de Marigny on the sidelines due to coach Marko Rudan serving a touchline ban, the Wanderers started brightly, with Nicolas Milanovic and Alex Badolato having early chances on goal.

The Wanderers were centimetres from scoring in the 21st minute when Milanovic’s powerful drive was miraculously tipped onto the crossbar by Mariners keeper Danny Vukovic; the Mariners then countered from that moment, with Daniel Margush then coming out wonderfully to deny the home side.

GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 18: Nicolas Milanovic of the Wanderers. competes for the ball with Storm Roux of the Mariners during the A-League Men round 17 match between Central Coast Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers at Industree Group Stadium, on February 18, 2024, in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

The momentum of the game swung when Antonsson was felled by a strong challenge from Jacob Farrell – whose studs made contact with the Swedes ankle; the Mariners defender received a yellow card and Antonsson was forced to leave the field moments later for Brandon Borrello.

The Mariners had a big chance just before the break when captain Brian Kaltak hit the crossbar from a corner.

After a free-flowing first half where both sides created a stream of chances and good attacking play, the second half was a much more stop-start affair, as a series of niggly fouls meant the game struggled to gain any sort of momentum.

Borrello had a fantastic chance to break through on goal just after the hour mark, but Kaltak put in a great sliding tackle to deny the attacking opportunity.

Stand-in coach de Marigny attempted to turn the tide in the Wanderers’ favour by introducing the likes of Sonny Kittel and Milos Ninkovic from the bench, with Kittel having a chance on the volley with 10 minutes to go, but it lacked power and went straight to Vukovic.

The miss was compounded moments later by the concession of a penalty after Gabriel Cleur was adjudged to have fouled Mariners substitute Ronald Barcellos.

Fellow substitute Mikael Dorka rolled the subsequent penalty past Daniel Margush to give Central Coast the lead with just minutes to play.

The Wanderers will look to regroup quickly as they are on the road once again against Adelaide United this Saturday, where they will have a host of key players back from suspension.

The Wanderers pushed for an equaliser, with Borrello and Dylan Pierias looking to use their pace to break down the Mariners rearguard, but the home side were able to slow the game down and ultimately held on in eight minutes of stoppage time to claim victory.