Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold praised the adaptability of his team after their 2-1 win over Adelaide on Saturday.
Midfielder Nick Montgomery’s 76th-minute strike capped off a comeback win for the Gosford outfit, who moved top of the A-League.
Montgomery, a veteran of 352 league games for English side Sheffield United, and captain John Hutchinson have provided the anchor in midfield which has allowed players like Tomas Rogic to flourish this season.
Arnold praised the duo, who shielded young central defensive pairing Zac Anderson and Trent Sainsbury against the Reds.
“Monty is fitting in very well with Hutchinson beside him so I’m very pleased with both of them,” he said.
“The experience that the two – Hutch and Monty – give in front of two youngsters in Zac Anderson and Trent Sainsbury is invaluable. I’m very happy with the whole team.”
The absence of midfield maestro Rogic, on Socceroos duty, was no problem for the Mariners as New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey provided a more than adequate back-up in the No.10 role.
“McGlinchey – that is the first time he has played No.10 with us and I thought he was excellent in the first half,” Arnold said.
“It’s a different role for him and having luxury of been able to bring Oli Bozanic back in on that left hand side (was good).
“We do a lot of practice in our attacking sessions of trying to get a lot of players familiar in different positions so if that type of thing happens, especially with only a three-man bench, that they are all familiar with their roles.”
Taking into consideration the oppressive weather – the match kicked off in 33-degree heat – Arnold still found areas for improvement after his side’s failure to capitalise in the attacking third.
“We have to be honest and say that we were sloppy in the final third. There were many occasions when we had a 3v2 or a 2v1 and we didn’t execute it properly like we have been in the first eight rounds. The score could have been much more,” he said.
“I put that down to the heat factor.
“The first thing that goes when you are tired is your brain and it’s your decision making. That’s the hard thing about playing in those type of conditions.”
Arnold also praised his team’s character as a key factor in their sixth win of the season.
“It’s such a joy to work with these guys because you know they are going to go out there and give everything they have got,” he said.
“Even in conditions like that you could see the legs were going on them but we kept going and going.”