Second half goals to Troy Hearfield and Mitchell Duke earned Central Coast Mariners a 2-1 friendly win over a competitive and determined Marconi Stallions side on Wednesday night.
Nathan Elasi had given the home team an early lead when he did well to finish a chance after only three minutes, however the yellow and navy produced a more fluent effort in the second stanza to defeat the New South Wales Premier League table-toppers.
Watched by a small but appreciate crowd in Sydney’s west, the match - albeit a friendly - couldn’t have started any better for Luke Casserley’s charges.
Indeed, the game was only a few minutes old when Elasi, formerly of Melbourne Victory, burst onto an accurate pass from midfield and clinically stroked the ball past the advancing Justin Pasfield to give the Stallions an early advantage.
Soon after Elasi’s opener, Daniel McBreen had a half-chance to restore parity to the game. With Brad McDonald doing well to swing an accurate cross in from the left side, McBreen volleyed just high of the Marconi goal.
Just ten minutes later McBreen did everything in his power to level the score when he headed Adriano Pellegrino’s accurate pass on target. This time, however, McBreen was denied by a sharp save by Marconi custodian Andrew Mercuri.
And while Mustafa Amini sent a shot from 25 metres just wide of Mercuri’s left post and trialist Fabio Ferreira tried his luck from range before half time, Central Coast couldn’t managed to draw level with their opponents before the break.
After the interval the Mariners managed to control more possession and starve the Stallions of any real chances to add to their tally.
And, with a slight change in formation aiding their attacking intent, the Mariners levelled proceedings via Hearfield midway through the half. Receiving the ball inside the box, the attacker sent a crisp shot on the angle into the back of the net.
With just 12 minutes to play, Mariners substitute Duke underlined why he is so highly regarded by Central Coast’s coaching staff with a textbook goal to secure the Mariners the win. Prodding the ball into the goal having used his pace to latch onto a direct pass from midfield, Duke left Marconi’s substitute keeper with little chance of salvaging the situation.
Defender Trent Sainsbury and midfielder Pellegrino both went close to adding to the Mariners’ tally late on, however Sainsbury had his header from a corner saved on the line, while Pellegrino’s shot from the edge of the area bounced off the crossbar.