Roux v Rojas: Kiwi showdown in Gosford

One fascinating sub-plot to Sunday’s intriguing clash between the revitalised Mariners and second-placed Victory is the Kiwi showdown between Storm Roux and Marco Rojas.

Fighting to avoid the wooden spoon a month ago, the Mariners are now just two points outside the top six on the back of three straight wins.

And while Victory have a squad full of attacking threats, Roux says compatriot Marco Rojas will be the player the Mariners must stop if they are a chance to continue their form surge. 

“He [Rojas] is an unbelievable player and he’s had an incredible season,” Roux told reporters on Wednesday.

“I’ve been up against him before so I know what he’s capable of and I’ve played with him with New Zealand so I sort of know him better than other defenders.

“I know it’s going to be a hard task whether he lines up on my side or against Scotty [Galloway] he’s always a threat.”

Marco Rojas

Roux feels he is starting to hit his best form after a serious injury leg injury ruined his 2015/16 Season.

Off-contract at the end of the season, the Kiwi international is hopeful of staying in Gosford and being a part of Okon’s “vision” for the side who are the now just two points off a spot in the six. 

But of immediate concern to Roux is Sunday’s clash with Victory.

The Mariners will have to overcome a horror recent record against Victory to keep their unbeaten run going, win-less against the Big V in their last 10 meetings. 

Two of those victories have seen the side keep a clean sheet [2-0 wins over Glory and Wanderers], with Roux part of a back four which is improving every week.

It’s a far cry from the struggles of last season, when the Mariners conceded in every match on their way to 36 straight games with keeping an opposition team out.

“It was obvious things needed to change. The record last season wasn’t good enough,” Roux conceded.

“We knew as professionals it wasn’t acceptable and we had to step up.

“The belief is growing every week and these last three results, we’re just going to try and keep it going, keep winning, keep getting those clean sheets and hopefully get into the top six.

Michael Neill celebrates with Storm Roux after scoring on NYE in 2015.

The 24-year-old added: “Paolo [coach Paul Okon] played at the back and knows what he wants from his defenders. We work every day in training to get better.

“It’s a credit to [keeper] Paul Izzo, he’s been unbelievable all season, he’s really shown what he’s about a great goalkeeper. Having [Jacob Poscoliero] back and Liam Rose slotting in the back line as well, he’s done a great job.

“The whole team is in great form. It’s not just the back four either, you see the winger’s dropping back and the midfield really strong in the middle there as well.”