2016/17 Australian A-League, 2016 Australian A-League
  • Roy O'Donovan (65' PEN, 78')

Central Coast punish wasteful Western Sydney to open race

Roy O'Donovan celebrates scoring for Central Coast Mariners. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

A second-half Roy O'Donovan double has denied Western Sydney Wanderers a first win at Spotless Stadium and lifted Central Coast Mariners two points shy of the A-League's top six.

Everything looked dead against a third consecutive win for the ninth-placed Mariners on Sunday, but the youthful outfit regathered composure after a poor first half to win 2-0.

The former wooden spoon favourites are now level on points with Wellington and just one adrift of seventh-placed Newcastle, who can knock the Wanderers out of sixth spot with a win over Melbourne Victory on Monday night.

Brendon Santalab was a surprising absence from the starting lineup, left to warm the bench despite his two goals in last weekend's 3-1 win in Wellington.

In his place playmaker Mitch Nichols made his 200th A-League appearance and was everywhere, concocting chance after chance as his team controlled possession and kept the Mariners in their own half.

At one point Nichols chased down a ball and whipped into the advancing Terry Antonis, who botched his first touch and flung his right-foot strike over the bar.

But every threatening Wanderers approach dissipated into nothing, and after eight first-half corners came and went the Red and Black Bloc took matters into their own hands, erecting a sign bearing the simple message to "Shoot!".

The Mariners were the ones to take the message on board after the break as Fabio Ferreira bobbled the ball to O'Donovan, who would certainly have put the visitors ahead had Vedran Janjetovic not burst out of his goal for a vital block.

The Irishman would get on the scoreboard, but not until after Santalab missed an absolute sitter.

Mere minutes after coach Tony Popovic withdrew Antonis on the hour to introduce his veteran striker, Santalab inexplicably bounced an excellent Jack Clisby cross wide from point-blank range.

They were chastened moments later when Jonathan Aspropotamitis pulled down O'Donovan in the box and the latter converted from the spot.

The Mariners' second came in open play and courtesy of fine lead-up work from skipper Nick Montgomery, whose through ball found O'Donovan -- and then past Janjetovic into the back of the net.

Australian A-League Standings