Mariners thrash Victory 6-2 in wet encounter
A clinical Central Coast rightfully held on to their place at the A-League summit by dismantling Melbourne Victory 6-2 in Gosford on Saturday night.
Michael McGlinchey scored a hat-trick, Mitchell Duke netted a brace while Nick Fitzgerald added to the hosts' goal haul to inflict a third straight loss on the hapless Victory, who remain in third spot.
Mark Milligan was the sole goal-scorer for the visitors after Mariners defender Trent Sainsbury gifted them a consolation own-goal.
With Western Sydney climbing to first place with their 1-0 win over Perth earlier on Saturday, a loss would have resulted in the Mariners surrendering top spot for the first time in 13 weeks.
The sense of urgency was apparent from the get-go as the Mariners came bursting out of the blocks at a rain-lashed Bluetongue Stadium in a game that delivered a torrent of goals and was awash with incident.
It was Duke who broke the deadlock in the 17th minute, getting on the end of a superb cross from Bernie Ibini to slot the ball home at the near post.
Duke then turned from hero to villain, bringing down Victory's Daniel Mullen in the box to concede a penalty.
Socceroo defender Milligan stepped up to the mark and made no mistake, levelling at 1-1 in the 23rd minute.
Duke got to redeem himself only moments later when Victory gloveman Nathan Coe came way off his line, leaving his goal wide open for Duke to score his second in the 32nd minute.
The Mariners didn't let up in the second stanza and got the breathing space they wanted in the 56th minute when McGlinchey scored his fourth goal of the season for a 3-1 lead.
The Victory tried desperately to get back in to the match with Leigh Broxham hitting the post moments later.
The Mariners got the chance to go further ahead when Victory defender Adama Traore gave away a penalty for bringing down McGlinchey in the box, only for Daniel McBreen to miss the ensuing spot-kick.
The Victory were gifted a goal in the 70th minute when Mariners 'keeper Mathew Ryan tried to defuse a dangerous cross from Diogo Ferreira, only to send the ball into Sainsbury's path who scored an own-goal and put the game in the balance at 3-2.
Substitute Fitzgerald got another one past Coe in the 81st minute with McGlinchey scoring two goals in five minutes in the dying stages to seal the big win.
Central Coast coach Graham Arnold insisted his side weren't spurred on by the Wanderers result, saying he was totally unaware they had even won and temporarily snatched top spot.
He said their main motivation was rebounding from a shock 2-1 loss to lowly Perth last week.
"After our performance against Perth ... we talked about a reaction and we put in a good performance tonight," Arnold said.
"It was tough conditions but I thought we were superb tonight.
"A performance like this at this stage of the season is very important."
Victory coach Ange Postecoglou cut a dejected figure after the loss.
"The Mariners were too good tonight," he said.
"They were a far better side than us, they played better than us and deservedly won the game.
"The scoreline accurately reflected the difference in the two teams.
"We were poor everywhere tonight. Young and old we were poor, beginning with the head coach."