|By JAMES WILLOUGHBY
Central Coast Mariners midfielder Nick Montgomery has revealed missing Friday's match against the Brisbane Roar through suspension may have been a blessing in disguise.
The 31-year-old was banned for the match after picking up five yellow cards, but admits that the time off did him good as he looks to shake off a niggling knee complaint.
But the issue should not affect the Englishman's participation in Thursday's home clash against the Wellington Phoenix.
"I've been carrying a bit of a niggle so it was a good opportunity for me to rest it," Montgomery said on Monday.
"I spoke to Arnie [coach Graham Arnold] during the week and I took a couple of days off to let it settle down. I started back training today and it feels fantastic."
Montgomery is looking forward to the match against the Phoenix as the Mariners aim to kick six points clear at the top of the league.
And he is aware of the importance of continuing the club's terrific home record, which has seen them go undefeated in all of their matches this season at Bluetongue Stadium.
Central Coast have won seven of those matches, a large factor in their current position as league leaders.
"You have to build a fortress at your home ground and I think Bluetongue [Stadium] has been a fantastic showing of that from the players and the fans," Montgomery said.
"We'll fight tooth and nail to make sure no one takes any points away from us at home.
"[Wellington] have had a bit of an indifferent season but they do have some good players.
"They are a physical team and on their day they’re a good match for anybody. But we know that if we're on our game we can get the right result."
The Mariners are three points clear of the second-placed Melbourne Victory on the table ahead of Thursday's clash with Wellington.