Mariners make F3 Derby history and THAT iconic trophy makes its way back to Gosford

Newcastle Jets host Central Coast Mariners in the Isuzu UTE A-League's F3 Derby. Check out the highlights.

Can anyone stop Central Coast Mariners? The Isuzu UTE A-League champions earned F3 Derby bragging rights and top spot, albeit provisionally, thanks to Saturday’s 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets.

Josh Nisbet was the hero the red-hot Mariners, with his first goal of the season leading Central Coast to a record fourth consecutive victory against the Jets.

Nisbet’s bullet strike 15 minutes from the end settled the contest and ensured the Mariners won this season’s F3 Derby trophy, having won two of this season’s three Derby fixtures.

BULLS CAN’T BE TAMED: Son of a gun scores twice as Macarthur pile more misery on City

The Mariners – who are in the AFC Cup Inter Zonal Final – have won five consecutive games across all competitions to join Wellington Phoenix atop the table, though the latter are scheduled to host Adelaide United on Sunday.

Newcastle are second from bottom and nine points outside of the top six through 19 rounds.

For Nisbet, his goal comes amid growing calls for a maiden Socceroos call-up.

Nisbet played a key role in Central Coast’s first Championship in 10 years last season, but a 2023-24 move has transformed the player and Mariners.

In the 3-3 draw away to three-time reigning premiers Melbourne City in Round 8, head coach Mark Jackson made a half-time change, pushing Nisbet further forward in midfield.

It proved to be a masterstroke as the Mariners scored three goals in the second half and were only denied victory by a 92nd-minute equaliser at AAMI Park. Central Coast have also gone from strength to strength while fans call for fan favourite Nisbet to be called up by Australia boss Graham Arnold.

The Socceroos are scheduled to face Lebanon in 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup qualifiers in Canberra and Sydney this month.

“Well he has been putting in some great performances. A lot of people are now starting to talk about him being there,” A-Leagues great Daniel McBreen said on Paramount+ post-match when asked if Arnold might given food for thought.

“I’m sure Graham Arnold is casting his eye across the whole league. If you’re performing well, you get an opportunity.

“Again, Nizzy’s stood up for the team and today he finally got his A-League goal that he’s been waiting a long, long time for.”

There was a welcomed sight for Jets fans before a ball was kicked as local favourite Archie Goodwin was named in the starting line-up for the first time this season at McDonald Jones Stadium.

But on the field, it was difficult for Newcastle as Central Coast dominated the opening half in the Hunter Region.

Through the first 25 minutes, the Mariners had 63% possession but nothing to show for it, with clear-cut chances few and far between.

After Golden Boot leader Apostolos Stamatelopoulos forced a save from Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic from an acute angle, Central Coast nearly broke the deadlock five minutes prior to the interval.

Max Balard was somehow denied from point-blank range and the saved shot was deflected back on target, with Ryan Scott left scrambling to push the ball away for a corner.

The Mariners did have the ball in the back of the net on the hour, but Jing Reec’s header was called back for offside after Storm Roux had strayed forward.

Trent Buhagiar and the Jets almost made Central Coast look silly two minutes later.

Buhagiar – linked with a move to Serie B during the Paramount+ broadcast – pounced on a backpass and as Vukovic sprinted forward to clear the danger, the ball hit Buhagiar and bounced just wide of the post.

The Mariners got their goal 15 minutes from the end and it was courtesy of their midfield maestro – Nisbet.

Nisbet received the ball, turned and fired the ball into the back of the net after wasting a gilt-edged chance against Melbourne Victory in Round 18.

Jacob Farrell nearly doubled the lead a minute later as his powerful effort drew a save from Scott.