|By STEVE BARRETT
Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has taken a swipe at the "crazy" staggered fixturing for the A-League's final round, which will be played across four days.
Speaking after his side's 2-0 win over Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium on Sunday, Arnold conceded that if Western Sydney take care of Newcastle and claim the Premiers' Plate, the Mariners will probably field a second string XI against Melbourne Heart at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday.
Arnold believes the loophole his side can exploit would be eradicated with simultaneous final round matches, and would provide an equal rest period for all finals participants.
"Every [final round] game should be at the same time," Arnold said. "Last round, everywhere in the world, every competition [should be] simultaneous kick-off because then you don't know what the other results are.
"For example, [if] Western Sydney beat Newcastle on Friday night [which would mean Central Coast's last game would have nothing riding on it], we play Melbourne Heart on Saturday but we've got Asian Champions League on Wednesday, so I'll play the youth team on Saturday.
"The FFA are lucky we've got Melbourne Heart who are out and can't make the six.
"It wouldn't matter if it was Brisbane or Sydney or whoever fighting for sixth spot then other teams can do it.
"It's crazy. You lose respect for the league.
"I've been saying it for years but they don't listen."
Arnold believes it is one of several fixturing problems and he believes the A-League should stop when internationals are on.
"We're the only country that doesn't get in line with the FIFA dates," he said.
Arnold let off plenty of steam after his side's triumph over the Reds, which came following a tumultuous week for the Mariners, with the club unable to pay their players last week.
With that backdrop it was a performance of the highest calibre by the Mariners against the Reds and Arnold feels blessed to be surrounded by good people during such a tough time.
"I'm very fortunate that I've got such a wonderful group of people to work with," Arnold said.
"Not just footballers, but people.
"It's been an extremely tough week. We still haven't been paid. We're waiting for the ownership situation to sort itself out.
"When that does, hopefully we will get paid. It's a disgraceful situation.
"It just shows you the type of characters we've got in the team."
Adelaide United coach Michael Valkanis, meanwhile, said the 2-0 scoreline in Sunday's loss to the Central Coast Mariners at Hindmarsh Stadium was not a true reflection of the match.
Aside from a gift of a goal to Mariners striker Daniel McBreen on three minutes and another one some 90 minutes later to veteran substitute Mile Sterjovski with the Reds pressing forward, the two sides fought an even, tough battle, with the visitors having the better of the first half and United bossing much of the second.
Valkanis even went as far as to suggest his side dominated proceedings, taking away the two goals.
"The second half was good," he said. "We huffed and puffed but didn't blow Central Coast down.
"If you take away the two goals conceded, the sloppy goal in the first few minutes and the one at the end, that's probably the [first time] in a long time that we've outplayed the Mariners.