AAP Soccer

Mariners withstand late Jets surge

By AAP Newswire

Interim Central Coast coach Alen Stajcic praised the spirit of his side, and the mental strength of goalkeeper Ben Kennedy after they shocked Newcastle 3-2 in a stoppage-time thriller at McDonald Jones Stadium.

In their first game under the former Matildas boss, the last-placed Mariners damaged Newcastle's finals hopes in a dramatic finish on Saturday night.

The Jets fought back from 3-0 down to have a chance to equalise in injury time when Jonathan Aspropotamitis was deemed to have fouled Roy O'Donovan, whose penalty shot was then saved by Kennedy.

Daniel Georgievski scored off the rebound to spark celebrations but VAR then ruled he had encroached on the area early and ordered a retake.

Kennedy was the hero again against his former club, denying O'Donovan a second time.

The Mariners second win of their season came a week after they lost 8-2 to Wellington and sacked coach Mike Mulvey.

Stajcic said all the accolades belonged to the players.

"I've been here for five minutes so just to see the spirit and the effort, and the way the lads went about their work, you could see they were really scrapping and fighting for every moment ... even had it finished at 3-3, I think that would have been there for everyone to see.

"That's all down to the players and the way they've responded this week."

Stajcic was quick to praise Kennedy after his spot kick heroics.

"To save two penalties in a row, it just shows how strong he is mentally to be able to produce that kind of effort and get the lads three points," he said.

The loss leaves Newcastle at least four points adrift of the top six with five rounds to play.

Newcastle coach Ernie Merrick had no issues with the penalty being retaken and said his players were at fault for the setback.

"We let ourselves down in the first half. We had more than enough chances to get the first goal," he said.

"If we had scored I think it would have been a different result, but credit to Mariners. They fought really hard to hold on and get the win."

It took the Mariners until the 49th minute to take their first shot but they took a shock lead two minutes later through Jordan Murray, who finished off a through ball from Matt Millar.

The visitors scored again in the 64th when Millar produced a cut-back that deflected to Jem Karacan and Connor Pain kick-started the Mariners celebrations three minutes later with a well-placed left-foot strike.

But Newcastle were far from done. They pulled one back in the 74th minute when O'Donovan got a lunging foot to Lachlan Jackson's cross.

Ronny Vargas trimmed the margin in the 81st but Kaine Sheppard squandered a chance to equalise two minutes before stoppage time before O'Donovan's slip ups.