Central Coast eye positive ALM homecoming

Central Coast coach Nick Montgomery wants the Mariners to turn their home ground into an A-League Men fortress as they return to Gosford for the first time in six months on Sunday. 

The Mariners have been on the road in both the FFA Cup and the A-League Men so far this season and have three points from four games to start the campaign. 

Montgomery’s men claimed their sole league win against Newcastle on the opening day of the season and face a Sydney FC side desperate for their first victory of 2021-22.

“We’ve had five away games to start the season and it’s been a challenge for the supporters as well because we’ve had a lot of travel,” Montgomery said.

“Hats off to them for giving us the support, especially for the trip to Wollongong twice and to Mudgee as well.

“For me the Central Coast Stadium has to be a fortress for us and the boys love playing there.

“We haven’t been there for a long time and I know the supporters are all looking forward to being back.

“Sydney are a very good team and consistently one of the benchmark teams in the league for the last four or five years.

“They have had a similar start to us because they have played well without picking up as many points as they would have wished.”

The good news for the Mariners coach is that he will be able to welcome back Mark Birighitti from a suspension picked up in the FFA Cup, although Nicolai Muller and Matt Simon remain sidelined

Birighitti’s absence led to Montgomery handing out two debuts to goalkeepers in last week’s loss to Macarthur FC when Yaren Sozer went down with injury and the coach was forced to call upon 17-year-old Lawrence Caruso.

“He’s a fantastic keeper and was outstanding for us last season and the games already this season,” Montgomery said of Birighitti.

“To have him back is massive for us. The goalkeeper is the last line of defence but he brings experience and calmness.

“He’s a good communicator and we’re really happy to get him back for this weekend.”