Mariners, Victory advance to FFA Cup last 16
Central Coast coach Phil Moss on Wednesday backed a move for an A-League team to be based in Wollongong, after a crowd of more than 5000 made the trip to WIN Stadium to watch his Mariners defeat South Coast Wolves 1-0 in the FFA Cup.
Fellow A-League club, the Melbourne Victory, eased their way into the FFA Cup round of 16 with a comfortable 2-0 win over Western Australia's Bayswater City at the WA Athletics Stadium.
Moss's side struggled with their fitness and a moment of class from Josh Rose and Glen Trifiro, in the 13th minute, provided the win, but the Mariners' boss was full of praise for both sides.
"I was really happy for the boys because they worked ever so hard for the full 94 minutes," Moss said.
"I think they showed real glimpses of quality in the first half ... not so much in the second half. I think fatigue got the better of us.
"Tonight was probably a fair indication of where we are at, match fitness-wise, against a team that are match hardened.
"We had players out there tonight that you could see were pushing through pain barriers, which is great for our preparation."
While excellent preparation for the Mariners' new A-League season, making them the fifth top-flight club into the final 16, the night was a win for football on the south coast.
The Wolves, the current day form of the two-time NSL champion Wollongong Wolves, were impressive as were their loyal fans with drums beating throughout the match, providing plenty of atmosphere.
"I would like to say that any bid for an A-League club from this area should be fully supported," Moss said.
"It is a fantastic football area and I think, tonight, the Wollongong club really showed they are ready for an A-League team.
"The Wolves were exactly what I expected. I coached in the State League for nine years. I got Trif (Glen Trifiro) and Matty Sim from the NPL last season and they are no longer State League players - they are fully fledged A-League players.
"I thought the Wolves played really well as a team, fought for each other and they were really hard to break down at times."
His sentiments were echoed by goal-scorer Trifiro.
"I know there is great support in Wollongong. I know they have tried and there has been talk that maybe there is a chance for another A-League team here and, with 5000 turning out tonight, it shows there is support in Wollongong," Trifiro said.
The Mariners next play three friendlies, one against Melbourne City, before embarking on their next FFA Cup encounter.
The Victory signalled their intentions by fielding a strong team for their FFA Cup opener against a Bayswater City team currently leading WA's National Premier League, and they also took the chance to unveil their attacking trio of Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and Archie Thompson.
That trio led to a first half goal to Barbarouses on the back of a final pass coming from Berisha before the Victory then secured the win when Thompson added the second in the 77th minute after being set up tremendously again by Berisha.
It was a competitive showing from Bayswater who are coached by former A-League defender Chris Coyne and featuring some talent in the squad including Todd Howarth, Sam Mitchinson, Devon Spence and Steve Burton.
Despite not being able to match the 4-0 scoreline that the Brisbane Roar beat the Stirling Lions with at the same venue at Tuesday night, it was a dominant showing in the first half from the Victory and then a solid effort in the second.
Gui Finkler and Berisha both created good opportunities to score in the opening 22 minutes for the Victory before their constant attacking forays paid off with a well-worked goal to Barbarouses as they broke down the Bayswater defence.
Mark Milligan was one star who didn't start for the Victory but he came on as a substitute for Leigh Broxham in the 59th minute and got some good run into his legs.
It was a much-improved effort from Bayswater in the second half and they were within inches of drawing level through a well-taken free-kick from Howarth that was narrowly wide 70 minutes in.
However, the Victory managed to hit back on the counterattack with Berisha passing off to Thompson in the box who then had no trouble scoring to guarantee the win.