|By HAMISH NEAL
With just two games down in the A-League season Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has all but confirmed he has found Alex Wilkinson's permanent replacement.
With two clean sheets which he played a vital part in and another solid display in Sunday's 1-0 win against Perth, defender Trent Sainsbury is a player in form.
Sainsbury was vital at both ends of the park for the Mariners.
The Perth-born player produced a header just prior to half-time, which with better direction would have given his side the lead.
The ex-Glory youth team player then laid on the pass from inside his own half to set up Daniel McBreen for the game's only goal.
Aside from those two highlights, the defender pulled off a string of crucial tackles at the back to repel the visitors.
Arnold praised 20-year-old Sainsbury's effort and said his displays have been key to the Mariners following the loss of Wilkinson to K-League side Jeonbuk.
"I know a lot of people when we lost Alex Wilkinson were worried and concerned about losing him," Arnold said.
"Wilko was a fantastic captain, a great clubman and a good player, but I have lot of faith in Australian youngsters and Trent Sainsbury who has been here with us for two years has had to sit back and be patient and at times play right full-back and he has learnt the ropes from Wilko and Patrick.
"I thought today he was superb with Patrick and you saw the big boy I bought on at the end Zac Anderson is another very, very good central defender.
"I wasn't that concerned and I didn't go overseas looking for another central defender I found another Australian kid."
Sainsbury, along-with his teammates will take plenty of heart from Sunday's triumph according to Arnold.
"Naturally it's going to build your confidence ," the former Socceroos coach said.
"I think a lot of the games are scrappy at the moment and I think a lot of that comes down to such a long off-season. You can't replicate competition games in friendly games, we played four or five A-League sides in friendlies and you just can't replicate it."
Speaking of the game-day pressure, Arnold said: "Once a competition starts it's a totally different ball game, because there are crowds and there is pressure, they are live on Fox Sports and all that it gives you a different problem for the players.
"We've got such a long off-season its takes little while for the teams to get going... we build into the season and it's important as I said to the boys that we are fit and we grind out results and we are strong defensively and we don't give anything away.
"Just pick up points early on and the confidence builds and then we go from there."