Gutsy Mariners primed for late surge
NEW Mariners boss Alen Stajcic believes his team's remarkable 3-2 win at Newcastle can be the springboard for a late-season revival on the Central Coast, even though they remain bottom of the A-League.
Stajcic thought he'd "seen everything in football", but the twists and turns of his side's dramatic victory - including a twice-saved penalty in injury time - left the former Matildas coach bemused but ultimately heartened about his short-term project.
Appointed only on Tuesday, Stajcic oversaw just the second win of the Mariners' season, from a side that had lost its last two games by conceding 13 goals. Though they have only pride left to play for, Stajcic said the win epitomised the intent he had felt at the club in the past few days.
"Holding on for the win was most important for the players considering what they've been through in recent times, and especially the last two games," he said.
"It gives them the belief that they can grind out a result - just having the discipline and determination to carry out a game plan right to the end.
"It wasn't the prettiest Mariners performance of the season but definitely the most disciplined. If we can add the quality of football to that in the next few weeks, we'll prove what a good side we can be."
The drama of the last few minutes left Stajcic shaking his head, after Newcastle had scored twice from being 3-0 down, and were given a stoppage-time penalty.
Goalkeeper Ben Kennedy saved Roy O'Donovan's spot kick, and though Daniel Georgievski turned in the loose ball, O'Donovan was ordered to retake it because of encroachment by Georgievski.
Kennedy then saved O'Donovan's second penalty, to confirm the Mariners' first win in Newcastle for six years.
"I thought I'd seen everything in football, but that was another one to add to the collection," Stajcic said.
"Some of the players on both sides were getting a bit agitated but I just let it all play out, you can't affect the ref's decision.
"But I was pleased in the end for the players to get the reward and give us something to build on.
"I only did two sessions last week and watched another, but it's an exciting challenge when you come into an environment when you don't know the players or what to expect.
"I was encouraged by the passion people have for the club, everyone here wants to be successful. You don't get the feeling of walking into a club that's down on its knees.
"What we're trying to do is establish a platform for next year, to give the fans confidence we can be a competitive team.
"People have been writing the Mariners off at all sorts of levels, so a win like that gives the players a bit of self belief that they are good enough."