Mariners into A-League preliminary final - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mariners into A-League preliminary final

By Philip Henderson 17/02/2006 10:13:47 PM Comments (0)

Central Coast's fairytale season continued on Friday night with the Mariners advancing to within one game of the inaugural A-League grand final after defeating Newcastle in the two-legged minor semi.

Leading 1-0 after last week's first leg, Mariners defender Dean Heffernan booked his side a berth in next week's preliminary final with his 79th minute headed goal.

The score evened the ledger 1-1 on Friday night, cancelling out Jets midfielder Matthew Thompson's 28th-minute speculative strike and handing Central Coast a 2-1 victory in the sudden-death tie.

Central Coast will now play either Sydney or Adelaide in the preliminary final.

The Jets, meanwhile, bow out of the competition after going winless in their final four games.

It looked like they may have at least forced the tie into extra time after midfielder Thompson gave the visitors an unlikely lead after 28 minutes.

But left-back Heffernan, as he has done all season, bobbed up for the Mariners when it mattered most, slotting substitute Damian Brown's fine cross past Jets 'keeper Liam Reddy for his eighth, and most important, goal of the season.

The goal sent the largely Mariners fans in the 17,429-crowd at Gosford's Central Coast Stadium into hysterics.

Central Coast dominated the opening 25 minutes and with the Jets seemingly content to pump the ball long and hope for the best, the match looked headed for little more than a glorified Mariners training run ahead of next week's preliminary final.

Tom Pondeljak went close to putting the home side a further goal ahead in the 18th minute, but his bullet-like 20-metre strike was well cleared by Newcastle midfielder Nick Carle off the goal line.

So it came as some surprise to even his teammates and coach Richard Money that Thompson levelled the tie with his speculative strike midway through the term.

With Mariners 'keeper Danny Vukovic a few feet off his line, Thompson decided to try his luck 25-metres out and on a 45-degree angle.

He struck the bouncing ball sweetly with the outside of his right boot, and then watched with amazement as it looped over Vukovic's outstretched arm and dipped under the top corner of the post.

The Jets improved from that point, but the Mariners still enjoyed the lion's share of possession.

Brown, who had come on late in the first half to replace last week's scorer Matthew Osman, who collapsed with heat exhaustion, had a pair of gilt-edged chances soon after the break.

The midfielder's first touch let him down the first time, while a minute later it took a charging Reddy to deny him.

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