In Gosford tonight the Western Sydney Wanderers have been demolished 3-1 by the last placed Central Coast Mariners, and were lucky that a second half red card to Kye Rowles helped keep the scoreline remotely respectable.
National Youth League goalkeeper Jack Greenwood made his A-League debut for the Wanderers due to a keeper injury crisis that saw Vedran Janjetovic, Danijel Nizic and Nick Suman all out of the squad. For the Mariners it was Adam Pearce taking the place of Ben Kennedy between the sticks. Giancarlo Gallifuoco's good substitute appearance in the Sydney Derby saw him elevated to the starting lineup for the visitors.
Brendan Hamill helped setup the first goal for the Mariners. After giving away a foul deep on the flank, he then proceeded to pull down Matt Simon as he was making his attacking run, giving the Central Coast a free kick 19 yards out from goal dead centre. Matt Simon used his Captain's privileged to take the kick and a 10 meter long run up. With an inevitable power drive at goal coming up, the Wanderers wall jumped up split like the Grand Canyon giving Simon a gaping hole to fire through, perhaps taking a slight deflection to give Greenwood no chance. It was dreadful defending, anyone could see that Simon was never going to attempt a deft chip over the wall, they should have lined all 10 outfield players up shoulder to shoulder and stood their ground.
Simon had a brace just after half-time through a questionable foul against Greenwood. With a soft cross played into the middle, Greenwood rose to punch away and made a mess, collecting Jordan Murry with a tap to the face. It was the type of 'foul' that referees in the A-League simply see as a hazard of playing football, but tonight for the first time the referee decided it needed to be punished with a penalty and a yellow card. No other referee will give a similar foul & penalty for another 5 years. It simply shows the complete lack of consistency that A-League referees have in their decision making process. Simon blasted the penalty to his right, Greenwood getting a slight touch but not enough to deflect the powerful shot wide.
The Mariners were in dreamland as Kye Rowles scored the 3rd in the 55th minute. From a corner a basic cross to the near post saw Tarek Elrich misjudge the flight, letting Rowles have a free header. The Wanderers didn't have anyone on the far post and as usual, it costs the side a goal when it should have been easily cleared away.
Mark Bridge came on for his 250th A-League match and made an immediate impact from the penalty spot. After scramble in the penalty area, Rashid Mahazi was bought down by Jacob Meling for a penalty to the Wanderers. Bridge powered his strike into the top corner past Pearce in goals. It was also at this point that Brendan Hamill suffered a concussion when he was poleaxed by Pearce just prior to the penalty award.
Rowles put his side's command of the game in danger shortly after with his disgraceful 71st minute challenge. Coming in hard and fast with a two footed studs up lunge on Alexander Baumjohann. Rowles collected the Wanderers play-maker in a challenge that was up there as one of the worst in the history of the league, and Baumjohann was lucky to avoid having his ankle or leg broken by the disgusting challenge. Referee Adam Kersey completely missed the foul from a mere 4 meters away, waving play on and only after the intervention of the VAR did he eventually pull out a well deserved red card.
The card helped the Wanderers regain control of the match but it did precious little to assist them in further damaging the deficit. Abraham Majok having the best chance deep into stoppage time but when a simple pass into the net was required he tried to blast the ball and skied it. Combined with early results the Wanderers have secured an 8th place finish in the A-League, one worse than under the Foxe/Gombau leadership.
The Wanderers play their final game of the season next week against Melbourne Victory at the Sydney Olympic Stadium, Homebush on Saturday the 27th of April at 7:50PM.