After a dry spell for Phil Moss' men had media hierachy jumping at the chance to finally, yet no more certainly, state the Mariners are stumbling into the final hurdle, who would have thought that three points south of the Yarra, coupled with other results falling our way in Brisbane and Sydney's west, could see the lads from the Coast sitting pretty in a tie for 2nd spot come weekend's close?
The Yellow and Navy showed last week in the F3 Derby that they know how to win dirty, and heading into Sundays meeting with the Heart have the chance to prove for the umpteenth time that it takes a brave man; or possibly more precisely a stupid man, to write off the Mariners for an extended run deep into the finals series.
On the Red and White side of Melbourne, the Van't Schip honeymoon is finally over after Newcastle Jets upstaged the Heart on their travells two weeks ago, and last weekend they failed to take all the points against a 10-man Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park. With the faint finals fire all but extinguished, can Melbourne Heart call on the likes of Harry Kewell and Orlando Engelaar for a big game to douse the flickering flame with a little kerosine.
The Form Book
Since Melbourne Heart's inception into the A-League in season 2010/11, the two side have played eachother 11 times, with the Mariners winning seven of those encounters. The Heart have won just once, with three draws making up the numbers. Though Heart's record is dour against the Mariners, AAMI Park is the site of their only win in the head to head thusfar.
Last Time They Met
The first game of a new year for both teams and the first game for the newly instated John Van't Schip saw the Central Coast Mariners host Melbourne Heart at Central Coast Stadium on a sunny afternoon in Gosford. Neither side started the year as they would have planned however, playing out a dismal 0-all draw in front of a similarly dismal and disapproving crowd.
Fingers crossed for a more upbeat affair this weekend.
The Game Changer
Nick Fitzgerald's performance in China midweek earns him the status as the man to watch for the Heart this weekend. A goal and some handy touches on the ball had 'Fitzy' as easily our best in the Middle Kingdom, as his game continues to develop under the watchful eye of Phil Moss and the senior players. After cementing his spot in a consistently reworked starting 11, Fitzy now has to repay the faith to the powers that be with a display of skill and speed on the left wing which could pay dividends for a Mariners side arguably the underdogs for Sundays clash after extensive ACL travel commitments.
The saying goes "don't flog a dead horse", and I think that the 20 hours of flying from China to Melbourne will take a toll on the mighty Mariners, and thus predicting we will take all three points may be pushing it. The fan in me says 2-1 to our boys, but escaping from Victoria's capital with a 1-1 draw would be as good as a win in my books.
You heard it here first.