Mariners coach ‘delighted’ with match-winner’s ‘great confidence’ to pull off penalty surprise

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Central Coast Mariners full-back Mikael Doka was yet to score an Isuzu UTE A-League goal when he put the responsibility of winning Sunday’s clash with Western Sydney Wanderers on his own shoulders.

But the execution matched the show of confidence by the Brazilian full-back, who earned the plaudits of his coach, Mark Jackson, in the aftermath of his expertly dispatched penalty that handed all three points to the Mariners.

Doka has struggled for consistent minutes in the Mariners lineup through his debut season in Australia, making just six starts in 17 appearances to date. But the defender showed the finishing touch of a number nine as he whipped an 83rd-minute spot kick into the bottom-right corner to decide the contest at Industree Group Stadium.

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Central Coast’s leading scorer Ángel Torres was sidelined through injury in Round 17, and with the Colombian winger out of action, the logical thought would have been that second-half substitute and January recruit Ryan Edmondson would take on penalty duties in the defining moment of the evenly-split affair.

But Doka’s conviction paid off in spades – and post-game, Jackson lauded his defender for taking ownership of the moment and sealing the three points that strengthened Central Coast’s grip on second place.

“Delighted,” Jackson said. “I’m glad he stood up and got the ball.

“Ryan (Edmondson) is a good penalty taker as well, but I was glad to see he got hold of the ball and put it in the back of the net. That shows great confidence from him.”

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Doka’s convincing finish from the spot ensured the Mariners got back to winning ways after a disappointing 3-1 defeat at home to Sydney FC in Round 17; Jackson’s side now holds a three-point lead over Macarthur FC and Melbourne Victory in third and fourth respectively as they shape as firm contenders for a top-two finish.

The Mariners have conceded just 22 goals in 18 games this season, keeping seven clean sheets – the latest coming against the Wanderers. Jackson spoke glowingly about his side’s structure and discipline post-game as he commended his side for keeping their opponents to just one shot on target in the slender win.

“We’ve worked a lot on (it) – not just this week – but it’s a big part of our game: how we connect as a team defensively, how we stay connected and how we connect going forward,” Jackson said.

“That word comes about a lot in our training sessions and our planning for games, reviewing of games, how connected we are. And I thought we were extremely good out of possession today, and we limited them to very little.

“They are a very good team but I thought our structure today was fantastic today. The players worked their socks off and showed how physically dominating they can be.”