By the end of January, reigning A-League champions Central Coast Mariners were sitting in a comfortable 3rd position on the A -League ladder. The January transfer window was detrimental to their campaign, allowing the mid-season sale of Mike McGlinchey, 2013 Golden Boot winner Daniel McBreen and 2013 Mariners Medal winner Trent Sainsbury. Add the season-ending injury to Marcos Flores, and you’re down four key players within a month.
The following month saw the Mariners lose all five games across the A-league and AFC Champions league. By the end of February, they had dropped to 6th on the A-League ladder. It seems the holes left in all areas of the park have been exploited by opposing teams.
The Gosford based club has a history of losing their top players to teams with bigger wallets, forcing the fresh talent to step up and fill the gaps. In the past this has worked for the Mariners, however, it takes time to adjust to a new team and build a successful squad. The six weeks remaining in the season may not be enough.
Besides the temporary return of Bernie Ibini, the January additions have failed to make an immediate impact. The new signing Kim Seung-Yong is yet to play a full game, either coming off the bench, or being subbed. However, the South Korean played an integral part of the Mariners narrow 2-1 home victory over Sydney FC on the weekend, with his free kick outside the penalty area neatly bending over the wall into the net. He then held his mariners logo to the fans showing them he’s the man for the job. The win broke the five game drought and pushed them ahead of Sydney FC. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come and not just a glimmer among fading contention hopes.
On top of Februarys rough patch, the Mariners have an incredibly tough home stretch. Their final four games are Melbourne Heart in red hot form, second place Western Sydney Wanderers, Perth Glory, and finally an away trip to face league leaders Brisbane Roar. The Mariners youngsters will have to step into the big boots left by McBreen, McGlinchey, Sainsbury, and Flores, if they have any hopes of retaining the title.