It was a sense of deja vu for Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold as his side defeated Adelaide United 3-1 in Gosford on Friday.
Arnold drew comparisons to the Mariners’ 7-2 thrashing of Sydney FC in November and was confident his team would prevail despite going behind when Reds defender Daniel Bowles scored in the 39th minute.
The result sees the men in yellow and navy increase their lead at the top of the A-League ladder to six points over second-placed Adelaide in a match reminiscent of Central Coast’s 2-1 victory over Adelaide in December, when they also had to come from behind.
Referring to his team’s profligacy in front of goal Arnold said: “It could have been five or six nil at half-time, and the second half was the same.”
Arnold said the result was ‘up there with our best of the season’.
“I think if we were more clinical in front of goals you could have had another Sydney FC score (7-2).
“I think we had that many chances – Daniel McBreen hit the post, missed a penalty and hit Oli Bozanic in the backside on the line. Missed headers on the far post, we definitely had a lot chances and it was great to see.”
Arnold dryly noted after a first half which saw the Mariners have 13 attempts on goal to the visitors’ three that, “It was the shortest team talk ever at half-time.”
“It was just ‘play like that again in the second half and you win the game.’ Simple.”
While veteran striker McBreen didn’t capitalise on his chances, Arnold’s rising star Mitchell Duke did in netting a double and the coach was clearly happy with the 22-year-old’s progress.
“Everyone knows I have got a very high opinion of him (Duke),” he said.
“He copped an ankle injury about four weeks into the season and he lost his fitness. It took him a little bit of time to get back which knocked his confidence around a little bit.”
“I just felt over the last few weeks he was getting back to his best.
“I said to him before he want on ‘it’s your night tonight, no-one else seems to be able to put it in so go out there and put it in.”
Despite leading the competition, the Mariners have a challenging period to come, with February signalling the start of their Asian Champions League campaign.