A four-goal second half saw Northern Tigers and Central Coast Mariners share the points in a thrilling 2-2 draw at NTRA on Saturday night in the NPL NSW Men’s 2 First Grade.
A tense opening to the match was quickly forgotten in the second 45, as Tigers went two in front thanks to goals from Michael Rolston and Jordan Smylie, only for the Mariners to score two late goals and salvage a result.
The Mariners started the match with intent, but a great cover challenge from Rolston and a fine save by Harrison Devenish-Meares saw Mariners striker Brenton Fox denied on two separate occasions.
Midfielder Joel Hardwick was looking dangerous for Tigers, driving down the right channel before delivering a dangerous low cross into the area, but Central Coast keeper Adam Pearce showed great reactions to prevent the ball finding Smylie in the box.
As the half wore on Mark McCormick’s Tigers seized greater control of the match, with Alexander Brown, Lachlan Hughes and Hardwick looking good down the right side. However, the final ball was still missing as both sides went into the break scoreless.
The second half began almost perfectly for Tigers, finding themselves in front as Rolston converted a penalty won by central defender Paul Turrin after a slaloming run through the heart of the Mariners midfield.
Just minutes later it was two. Hardwick’s defence-splitting pass found Smylie in the box, and the 17-year-old produced a clinical finish to double his side’s lead. The youngster was creating a myriad of problems for the opposition, and was rewarded with a penalty for his persistence in the box near the hour mark. However, the ensuing spot-kick brought the teenager back to earth as Pearce made a strong save to his right to give his side a fighting chance.
The Mariners duly capitalised on this lifeline, with substitute Peter Kekeris adding plenty of skill and drive to the left flank. Fox tested Devenish-Meares with a well-struck free-kick, and a low drive from captain Lachlan Wales seemed destined for the net until the Tigers keeper intervened once again.
McCormick added Max Glanville to the attack to try and reignite play in the final third. The number eight combined well with Smylie, but unfortunately the striker could only hit the side netting from a narrow angle.
The Mariners pulled one back in the 86th minute, as a fine run from Kekeris was completed by a composed finish from Thomas Lyons. Ben Cahn’s side then found an equaliser in stoppage time in a mirror-image of their first goal, as a run down the right flank then saw Yerasimakis Petratos calmly put the ball into the back of the net.
The result sees Tigers drop to third on the NPL 2 First Grade table behind St George Saints, while Central Coast remain in fourth just two points adrift.
Central Coast Mariners Academy – 2 (Lyons 86’, Petratos 90+2’)
Northern Tigers – 2 (Rolston (pen) 51’, Smylie 53’)
Central Coast Mariners Academy: Adam Pearce; Jack Kuipers, Reece Papadimitrios, Michael Glassock, Jordan Lane; Thomas Lyons, Gianni Stensness; Shelford Dais, Sallu Kamara, Lachlan Wales; Brenton Fox.
Northern Tigers: Harrison Devenish-Meares; Lachlan Hughes, Paul Turrin, Jordan Ferrier, Michael Rolston, Jamie Craig; Joel Hardwick, Josh Ward; Alexander Brown, Jordan Smylie, Luke Dawson.
Lower grade results
Under 20’s – CCMA 1 Tigers 2
Under 18’s – CCMA 1 Tigers 6
Note: CCMA were the designated home team for this fixture as it was originally scheduled to be played at Pluim Park, Lisarow before being moved to NTRA.