Central Coast Mariners have won the rescheduled Round 1 clash, getting revenge over their local rivals with a convincing 3-0 triumph at Industree Group Stadium.
It was the second F3 Derby in under a fortnight, after the Jets had won at the same venue just 10 days previously.
Nick Montgomery’s side were good value for their win, creating plenty of chances that could have extended the winning margin. Jason Cummings, Beni Nkololo and Marco Tulio scored to even up the derby ledger for 2022-23.
The Mariners had the better of the early salvos, with Garang Kuol, in a rare start, terrorising the Newcastle defence.
It was still very warm in Gosford as the sun set, justifying the relatively slow pace of the game. Both sides having just a few days in between games was surely playing a part, too.
Montgomery, as always, was animated in the home technical area while Arthur Papas cut a more composed figure.
The away side began to threaten more, winning a couple of corners in quick succession but failing to capitalise on the set-piece situations.
From a quick counter-attack Kuol slipped in Cummings but the Socceroo couldn’t make the most of the chance, denied by Jack Duncan diving to his right.
The home side deservedly took the lead through Marco Tulio’s brilliant long-range strike that caught Duncan off his line. The gloveman was stranded as he watched the Brazilian’s effort sail over his head and nestle into the net.
Duncan remained busy as Central Coast continued to control the game and create the lion’s share of chances.
With the mercury dropping the game began to open up, and Newcastle started to enjoy a better period in the back end of the first half.
Nick Montgomery’s side retained their 1-0 advantage as the half-time whistle sounded out.
As the lights came on at Industree Group Stadium for the second half, conditions were pretty much perfect for an entertaining second half of this F3 Derby.
Brian Kaltak made an important block in the 49th minute to keep his side in front from the first real chance of the second half.
Before long Jason Cummings would make the Jets pay, executing a deft chip over Duncan to double the Mariners’ advantage.
With less than 35 minutes left, it looked to be a very tall order for Papas’ side to get themselves back into the match away from home. Getting one goal back looked to be tough enough, let alone two.
Papas went to his bench in an attempt to revitalise his team, with Reno Piscopo, Jaushua Sotirio and Callum Timmins being brought on.
Cummings, meanwhile, had earned an early shower, the centre forward being replaced by Michael Ruhs.
Scholarship player Sasha Kuzevski was then given his opportunity to impress with under 15 minutes to go in the F3 Derby.
Substitute Beni Nkololo put the icing on the cake in the 87th minute with a composed spot-kick after Mark Natta handled in the penalty area.
Kuzevski had a golden chance to put his side four to the good after some excellent work from Nkololo but the youngster saw his strike cannon back off the crossbar.
It ended 3-0 in a dominant victory for the Mariners, who are now third on the A-League ladder and possibly building another special campaign in Gosford.
Fans not significantly dissuaded by the events in Melbourne
There was some concern that last week’s horrible scenes at AAMI Park would significantly affect crowds around the league.
In the three games after the abandoned Melbourne Derby, attendances have been in the average range for the home clubs, including a healthy, boisterous crowd tonight at Industree Group Stadium.
It still remains to be seen what the long-term ramifications of the OSM pitch invasion and assault on Tom Glover will be, but the worst-case scenario of the league folding that had been posited over the weekend can probably be put to bed now.
There’s plenty of work to do to regain the casual fans’ trust, but it appears that the diehards are not going anywhere.
Mariners keep building, but what does the finished product look like?
Nick Montgomery’s side showed their potential in a convincing 3-0 victory away from home at CommBank Stadium, one of the Mariners’ most complete performances in years.
Before tonight’s win they had dropped games to Macarthur and Newcastle, calling their consistency into question. And that’s the mystery around this club: are they really the side that travelled down the freeway and took apart Western Sydney on their home deck, or are they just another yo-yo side that will finish somewhere between third and eighth, alternating wins and losses every week?
That’s the question Montgomery will have to answer for Central Coast to become genuine title contenders in 2022-23.
Kuol can make an impact regardless of role
The sky is most certainly the limit for Garang Kuol, who’s now played at a World Cup and is contracted to Newcastle United in the EPL.
Montgomery has now given the young star a couple of starts in the A-League, and while not every play he makes is going to be highlight reel worthy over a full game, Kuol has shown that he can easily influence a game as part of the starting XI. He was only given 45 minutes today but his showing bodes well for his looming move to Europe and his future ambitions to reach the highest levels of football.
It’s almost at the end of his time playing for Central Coast but surely all Australian football fans will be keen observers of where the 18-year-old’s career goes from here.
Central Coast Mariners 2 (M. Tulio 22′, J. Cummings 63′, B. Nkololo 87′)
Newcastle Jets 0