Central Coast kept their faint Premiers' Plate hopes alive with a gritty victory over Brisbane Roar thanks to Bernie Ibini's first-half strike.
|By HAMISH NEAL
A solitary goal to Bernie Ibini saw the Central Coast secure a bye in the first week of the finals series and remain an outside chance at retaining the A-League Premiers Plate with a 1-0 triumph against the Brisbane Roar in Gosford on Sunday.
The result also meant the Roar missed a chance to move into the top six and are still two points in arrears of sixth-placed Newcastle, although the Roar do have a game in hand on the Jets.
The Mariners (48 points) cut the gap to five points from the ladder-leading Western Sydney Wanderers (53 points.)
Ibini's 35th-minute goal came via a Trent Sainsbury throw-in which saw Nick Montgomery tap the ball into the path of the striker who still had work to do before a cool left-foot finish gave the home side an early advantage.
Mariners coach Graham Arnold returned Ibini, Daniel McBreen, Michael McGinchey, Montgomery, and Joshua Rose to the starting line-up after the mid-week Asian Champions League action in Japan against Kashiwa Reysol.
Brisbane's starting eleven was un-changed for a fourth consecutive A-League match.
The Queenslanders had early chances with Steve Lustica, from long-range and a corner, having attempts which were sandwiched between an attacking raid from Stefan Nijland in the 13th minute.
Arnold's side sprung into life with two chances in two minutes from the 24th minute when McGlinchey forced a save from Brisbane goalkeeper Michael Theo before Ibini wasted a chance from two metres out after Theo had saved a Daniel McBreen header.
Within three minutes of Ibini's opener Theo pulled off a brilliant right-handed save as McGlinchey drove a shot towards goal.
Moments later Theo was at full stretch when McBreen struck the right hand upright.
Shortly before half-time Arnold was given an official warning by referee Alan Milliner with Arnold seemingly upset at an earlier incident when Roar coach Mike Mulvey came well out of his technical area to dispute a call against his side.
It took until 17 minutes into the second half before either side went close again.
First McGlinchey for the Mariners had a wayward swing at a Rose cross in front of goal before Nijland on the counter-attack for Brisbane spurned a chance one-on-one with Mariners shot-stopper Mat Ryan.
Chances weren't as plentiful on the second half as both sides were troubled by the windy conditions and lacked control at times in their passing.
Dutchman Nijland had an excellent chance to equalise in the 72nd minute when he blasted a free kick from range into the post.
Substitute Mitch Nicholls also sought the left-hand corner with a long-range attempt three minutes later.
Brisbane continued to trouble the home side, Nijland forcing Ryan to punch away a dangerous corner with eight minutes to go.
However, the Mariners defence stood tall to preserve their advantage, lead by Sainsbury and Patrick Zwaanswijk.