Mariners out to spoil the party for top six hopefuls

Central Coast Mariners want to become the A-League's wrecking ball in a bid to make the last six rounds of the season count for something.


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Mariners can't make the finals and it would be a near-miracle if they avoided the wooden spoon from where they are on the table - in last place, 10 points behind second-last Newcastle Jets.

But all of their last six games are against teams still in the race to make the top six, starting with the clash against Melbourne Victory at Central Coast Stadium on Sunday.

Young defender Harry Ascroft said the team see it as a chance to still make an impact by affecting the season outcomes for other teams.

"Our finals hopes are gone, but we can really upset the teams that are searching for points, like Melbourne Victory," he said. "We can really add a twist to things in the last six rounds.

"We like the idea of being a nuisance team. We can upset a lot of teams and that gives us something extra to play for.

"The finals race is very tight. A lot of teams are close together on the table and we're playing most of them. We'll see if we can upset some teams and really make it interesting for the last few weeks. We're just trying to have an impact and see how it unfolds."

After the home game against fifth-placed Victory, Mariners will play seventh-placed Perth Glory away, sixth-placed Sydney FC at home, second-placed Adelaide United away, first-placed Western Sydney Wanderers away and eighth-placed Newcastle Jets at home.

Newcastle, after a recent revival, are four points outside of the top six and if Sydney FC lose to Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Saturday and Jets beat Glory at nib Stadium on Monday that margin will be cut to just one.

Despite results not going the Mariners' way this season, Ascroft insists it has been a valuable learning process for himself and the squad's many other young players.

"I'm very pleased I'm playing regularly, which is what every footballer wants," he said. "I'm learning a lot, even though we do make mistakes every now and then. It's been great for me and a lot of other young players because we've been given an opportunity.

"We're taking that opportunity and with six games left we want to push really hard and end the season on a high."

Ascroft, who had not played A-League until this season, said he could appreciate the difference in his approach from his first few games to now.

"It's a very physical league and I'm learning how to handle different situations," he said. "If you're marking certain players, you know how they play from being up against them once or twice. It's all about working together with your teammates and my understanding with them has improved.

"We've had a different line-up quite often, but along the way we've all played with everyone else here and we're quite comfortable now. It's about forming those partnerships and helping each other and learning from each other.

"Early on, I felt like I didn't want to be the one who made a mistake, so I tended not to put myself in that situation. But you gain confidence as the season goes on and you play more games. It helps you become more comfortable on the ball and I know I'm more comfortable now.

Ascroft said that sticking to the plan of giving young players experience and playing a proactive style of football this season would be worthwhile for the club in the long run.

"The club have their direction in which they want to go and a lot of us young players will gain experience from a massive learning curve and be better for it," he said.

"Who knows, they might bring in a couple of older boys next season which could help balance the team, but every young player will learn from the experience this season and be better for us next season."

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4 min read
Published 4 March 2016 at 11:45am
By Greg Prichard