Central Coast Mariners
Rated, analysed and interviewed
Considering the nightmare that was Central Coast’s 2015/2016 campaign, where they won the wooden spoon and broke records as one of the worst teams in the competition’s history, 2016/2017 was a step in the right direction.
The Mariners finished eighth and won three more games than they did the previous season – but without ever challenging for a finals spot. Okon changed the style of the club, moving from a defence-focused counter-attacking philosophy to one based on dominating possession. There was more stability from the Mariners at times but there is still a long way to go.
THE GAME PLAN
With Tony Walmsley at the helm, Central Coast were exceedingly fragile at the back and prone to conceding embarrassingly sloppy goals. Okon has tried to tighten up defence and keep the ball a lot better. It is a work in progress but with solid signings at centre back and central midfield, there is hope. When the Mariners win the ball it will be up to Danny De Silva, Andrew Hoole and Tom Hiariej to create. Okon is likely to stick with either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 formation that he constantly favoured last year.
Midfield. The Mariners have strengthened heavily here with the arrival of Dutch duo Wout Brama and Hiariej. Both have an excellent pedigree and will be a calming influence. There is also attacking nous in the middle with the arrival of Hoole and De Silva to complement Connor Pain on the flank.
Defence. The Mariners remain weak at the back with Ben Kennedy and Tom Glover their two goalkeepers. Kennedy has been injury-prone recently, and susceptible to the occasional mistake, while Tottenham youngster Glover has potential but is an unknown quantity. But in central defence, with the signings of Alan Baro and Antony Golec, they finally have some experience.
LESSONS FROM LAST SEASON
Both attack and defence were an issue for the Mariners. They conceded 52 goals and scored just 31. Okon shored up the centre half area but the loss of Irish poacher Roy O’Donovan to the Jets was a hammer blow. O’Donovan scored 11 goals, just over a third of the club’s whole tally for the season. Okon needs new Spanish signing Asdrubal to pick up the slack, along with Blake Powell and young gun Trent Buhagiar.