Mariners keen to prove doubters wrong against Glory
FOOTBALL: Central Coast coach Paul Okon is confident his team can change the opinions of so-called experts who believe the Mariners are nailed on for a second straight A-League wooden spoon.
Okon, who took over from the sacked Tony Walmsley in the off-season, said that while there was obviously a reason why many believed his team would finish 10th again, he was going into tomorrow night's clash with Perth Glory at nib Stadium full of optimism.
"The last message and the first message and the message in between is to believe in ourselves,” he said.
"We have shown in the past couple of pre-season games that we will certainly have something to say in this competition.
"I guess it's up to us as a club to prove people wrong and show them that maybe they're making a mistake calling us early-bird wooden spoon contenders.”
Okon said defensively his team had shown in friendlies against Melbourne City and Wellington Phoenix that it could cope with Glory's attacking threats such as Andy Keogh and Diego Castro.
"They have some very good players in the front third,” he said.
"But last week against Melbourne City we gave away no opportunities and the week before (against Phoenix) we were up against (Gui) Finkler, (Kosta) Barbarouses and (Roy) Krishna, a very potent and strong attacking line, and we dealt with them comfortably.
"In that respect we are confident but we have to stay focused for the whole 90 minutes.”
Meanwhile, Phoenix captain Vince Lia is hoping for a big home crowd at Westpac Stadium when the team takes on title contenders Melbourne City tomorrow night.
"We're at home, we want to excite the fans and we want to score goals,” Lia said.
"We had a good result against them in Townsville in pre-season, so once the season kicks off we are hoping to do it again.”
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said it had been the best pre-season he had been involved with at the club and was hoping for some good things against a City side missing star recruit Tim Cahill, who is on Socceroos duty.
"The preparation has probably been the best since I've been at the club,” he said.
"The recruiting has been first class and despite some of the All Whites (New Zealand internationals) being away, we've got a very strong first XI ready to go against Melbourne City.”