The Central Coast Mariners have taken precious points off another A-League finals aspirant, but have fallen just short of a first win in 13 games by drawing 1-1 at home with Western Sydney.
Three days after holding Newcastle to a 0-0 draw at the same venue in Gosford, the Mariners took two points off a Wanderers side playing their first game since the competition resumed.
The Mariners looked on course to get their first win since January 12 on Monday, when Milan Duric finished well just before the hour mark, after Matt Simon knocked Tommy Oar’s cross into his path.
An 88th-minute header from substitute Simon Cox salvaged a point for the visitors, who remain in ninth spot four points off sixth.
Wanderers started the game on top, but lost the momentum midway through the first half and only regained it late in the game.
“We did fall back a little bit and (it was) a little bit frustrating,’ Wanderers’ coach JP de Marigny said.
‘The way we finished the game was strong and was determined, it was positive. I see it as gaining a point.”
Mariners’ coach Alen Stajcic rated his team’s performance as their best in the three games they have played since the competition restarted.
He thought they might have been awarded two penalties and said it was heartbreaking not to hold on for what would have been just their fifth win of the campaign.
“I thought we were much better on the ball than we have been and created a lot of attacking opportunities,'” Stajcic said.
“I thought we were hard done by to cop that later equaliser, we were on top and looked more threatening and more dangerous and throughout the night.
“The first 10,15 minutes was maybe in in their favour but I thought after that we were the better team and probably should have scored a second one that would have put the game to bed and a couple of decisions that might have went our way.”
Early on, the Wanderers dominated a contest played in difficult rainswept conditions, as Tate Russell’s fierce drive forced a fine fingertip save from Mark Birighitti.
As the half progressed the hosts grew into the encounter, but struggled to create chances apart from one shot by Sam Silvera.
They maintained momentum through the early stages of the second half and deservedly took the lead.
Substitute Alou Kuol nearly doubled theIr advantage but headed a Duric free kick straight at Wanderers’ goalkeeping debutant Tristan Prendergast.
The Wanderers looked listless after their promising start, struggling to create chances, but lifted in the latter stages.
Captain Mitch Duke almost equalised with a header from a free-kick from substitute Pirmin Schwegler, but it was pushed away by Birighitti, while Daniel Georgievski also flashed a strong drive just wide..,.
The always energetic Duke supplied a cross which deflected to Republic of Ireland international Cox, who headed home at the near post.