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  • The Central Coast Mariners will play two home games in Canberra this season. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
After three rounds, the Central Coast Mariners are winless, but new coach Paul Okon has them playing better than their results suggest, writes Luke Sicari.
25 Oct 2016 - 10:30 AM  UPDATED 25 Oct 2016 - 10:30 AM

Sometimes, the ladder can be a false indication of where a team sits. After all, the league table only goes by wins and losses, discounting the important factor of the differing circumstances and expectations a side is playing against.

This is the story for Central Coast, who sits 9th with two losses and a draw after round three of the new A-League season.  

When Socceroos legend Okon accepted the Mariners’ top job in late August, results weren’t at the forefront. Yes, more wins were a necessity after last season’s three-win campaign. In a wider context, though, stability, a culture shift and some basic competitiveness had to be seen, before the wins starting increasing.
Three weeks in and Okon has achieved this so far.

Central Coast is no longer an easy out. As a team, the Mariners are starting to look like a formidable attacking unit, while their midfield controls the ball and tempo of the game.

In the Mariners’ first three outings, the same downfalls have haunted them. It isn’t a lack of desire, teamwork or ambition. Instead, individual errors have lead to Central Coast’s 0-1-2 record.  

In round one, Perth Glory held a 3-0 lead over the Mariners at half time, before Central Coast completed a stunning second half comeback to escape with a point.
Don’t be fooled by the 4-0 score line against Sydney FC in round two – the Mariners controlled large parts of that contest, and Okon will be the first to tell you.   
 
“I think we were the better side tonight,” Okon said after the 4-0 defeat.

Against Brisbane Roar this past Saturday, Central Coast played a gritty style of football, with last-ditch defensive efforts and a number of promising attacking chains.

The common denominator in these results is the Mariners lacked polish and individual class to really punish their opponent. This is expected out of one of the youngest and most inexperienced squads in the A-League.

However, Okon has been the driver behind a positive change in Central Coast’s mentality over the past three weeks.

His methods may be unusual – declaring your team was the better side after a 4-0 defeat isn’t exactly common practice.

From the outside, these comments may paint Okon as a delusional manager. In reality, though, maybe this is the encouragement that these young Mariners need. Okon knows his team better than anyone else, so it would be foolish to ridicule his methods this early.

Especially when you consider the Mariners – who were inadequate and disastrous under Tony Walmsley – are finally starting to show a sense of belonging amongst the most talent-rich A-League we’ve ever seen.