Arnold praises players

Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has praised his players despite the Jets snatching a late 1-1 draw in their F3 derby clash in Newcastle on Wednesday night.

Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has praised his players despite the Jets snatching a late 1-1 draw in their F3 derby clash in Newcastle on Wednesday night.

The Mariners were playing their fourth match in the space of two weeks, their third away from home, and despite only having 40 percent of the possession against the Jets, the Central Coast side was able to grab a 1-0 lead via Matt Simon in the 49th minute.

They protected the lead past the 90-minute mark, but former Mariner Sasho Petrovski poked home an injury-time equaliser in a desperate goal-mouth scramble to see both sides share the points.

“I thought there was only one team on the field that should have won, but that is the way it is,” Arnold said after the match.

“I was very proud of the players. I thought the boys were outstanding. Young boys – Mustie (Amini), Matt Ryan, and Trent Sainsbury on debut, I thought they were excellent as were the senior boys around them.”

“But overall 26 points, 15 rounds and I expected us to be better in the next 15 rounds so I am very happy.”

Arnold said the road trips in the past couple of weeks, including away games to Wellington and Melbourne had been punishing on his players but he was amazed at the resilience of his squad.

“It is difficult for everyone with midweek games and a lot of travel. We have a few hamstring strains from the travel,” he said.

“It is not easy and the overall depth of the squads will be tested and I am very happy with our young kids – I think they have proved that again tonight.”

“If you said to me before the season started that Mustie Amini would have played seven games, and Matt Ryan the goalkeeper would have played 10 games and Matt Lewis. I would have thought you were mad. But they have really stepped up and shown a lot of maturity.”

“I think Mustie (Amini) showed a lot of strength out there tonight and he is really getting used to the physical side of the A-League.”

Arnold also reserved special praise for Simon who worked hard up front for the Mariners.

“I thought it was his best game tonight,” Arnold said. “Even if he is not playing well you get the same thing from him.”

“He works so hard up front and he drives the defenders mad, he scored a great goal tonight, it was a great finish and we were unlucky we didn’t get a second one.”

Mariners skipper Alex Wilkinson said he was disappointed at giving up the lead so late in the game but was philosophical about the result.

“Just cause of the nature of the goal and the time it was scored.” Wilkinson said. “It was like pinball in the box and Sasho has somehow scooped it up over Matt Ryan – I still don’t know how he has done it.”

“I am bitterly disappointed that we couldn’t come away with the win but we look forward to playing Brisbane now.”

“It is going to be a good test for us, they are top of the table and we look forward to taking them down on Sunday. We will keep all the boys spirits high and at the end of the day it is a draw, not a loss. We will take a point go home and hopefully beat Brisbane.”

“We should have got a draw against the Gold Coast, I will put my hand up and say I made a mistake that cost us there and maybe tonight we will look back and say ‘we should have got the points there as well’ but it wasn’t to be.”

“But there is no point in looking back and saying ‘what if?’. We can only look forward to the next 15 games and hopefully go better than the 26 points we have now.”