The defending champions are unbeaten this season but Arnold says the team will only get better as the campaign develops
In an ominous sign for the rest of the A-League, Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has warned his side is still yet to hit their form.
Despite losing some key personnel in the off-season, the Mariners still have plenty of character and they have already shown it twice this season after coming back from two goals down away to force a draw.
The Mariners fought back from two early goals against the Melbourne Heart to force a 2-2 draw in round two and they found themselves trailing the Jets 2-0 early in the second half of a typically spirited F3 derby before Marcos Flores and Mile Sterjovski scored to snare a point.
"We do our pre-season a bit different to other teams – we don't want to hit our best form in the first round, we just try to grind out some performances early on and pick up some points," Arnold said.
"Most teams won't settle until round six, round seven and you are seeing some funny results and some inconsistent football at the moment.
"You play 14 away games and if you can pick up a point for each away game, at the end of the season and you are winning a lot of your home games then you are going to be thereabouts again.
"At the end of the day it wasn't our best performance but it was a great comeback and the character was very good for the players again. We will get better."
The first came from a goal-mouth scramble when Scott Neville poked home from close range and the second eventuated when goalkeeper Justin Pasfield misjudged a back-pass from Trent Sainsbury that trickled across the goal line.
But Arnold went to his bench to bring on Matt Simon and Sterjovski into the contest, with both having an immediate and lasting impact as the Mariners changed formation to finish the stronger of the two teams.
"It wasn't our best performance but to go 2-0 down in the derby and come back the way we did – I thought the last half hour was all us, we only had to worry about getting caught on the break," he said.
"When I changed the system from the way we used to play with a diamond shape and two central strikers it caused them some problems and I was happy that the boys adapted to the very well.
"That is why I took (Nick) Montgomery and (Nick) Fitzgerald off. It was not that they were playing bad or anything, it was just that they hadn't played that diamond system before.
"Marcos (Flores) when we spoke the other week, said he had played it in Argentina and we practised it for 10 minutes during the week just in case and I thought it worked well.
"We gifted them two goals – we gave them two early Christmas presents that is a disappointing thing."
Meanwhile, Jets coach Gary van Egmond has lamented his side's ability to close out the match.
"You've got to win games," he said.
"We have shown that we are competitive but in the end you have to ensure that you are able to close out games and take three points.
"Our performances are good but it is not just about the performance – it is about getting those three points and that is what we need to do from here on in.
"We need to ensure that when we get into positions like we did, that we close the game out.
"But I am proud of the boys today. I thought they really fought hard today for the club and the supporters and for each other if they continue to do that, we will win more than we lose."
One of the major positives from the match was Neville's goal, the team's first in over 450 minutes of football, and the relief was palpable around the stadium.
"It has been highlighted quite a bit, but it is always nice to get on the score-sheet – and they even scored one for us as well. So that was very considerate of them," van Egmond said.
"The pleasing thing is we have put two good games back to back.
"I am pretty happy with the way we performed and I think we still can get better than what we did today – it is not so much from a playing point of view, it is more about the positioning and the decisions we have to make at critical times to ensure that we score or keep a clean sheet.
"They (the players) were disappointed. It was the same as last week, but that is the expectation that we have of one another, and how the game was panning out we felt we should have got more than that.