A-League: Central Coast Mariners coach Paul Okon expects Wellington Phoenix to attack

Coach Paul Okon says the Central Coast Mariners are more confident after their first win of the season. Photo: Morne de KlerkThe Wellington Phoenix might be missing five of their first-choice XI, but Central Coast Mariners coach Paul Okon is still expecting them to have a strong team at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.

Okon also expects his team to have come through their first win of the A-League season unscathed, but will know more when they return to training.

Wellington will have the guts ripped out of their team ahead of the important clash, with both sides looking to build momentum after tasting victory for the first time this season.

They will be without captain Andrew Durante, goalkeeper Glen Moss, striker Kosta Barbarouses, Louis Fenton and Michael McGlinchey, who will be with the All Whites squad preparing for World Cup qualifiers against New Caledonia on Saturday and Tuesday.

But Okon said the Phoenix had shown the depth they have with a gutsy 1-0 loss to Melbourne City in round one when they were also missing a raft of players.

“Phoenix will obviously be disappointed they lose the players and for us, whichever team they put out is going to be a strong team,” he said on Tuesday.

“I saw them in round one when they played Melbourne City, they played really well and made life difficult for Melbourne City.

“For us, even if Wellington had all their players, yes we do look at the opposition and we do analyse them and try to know as much as we can about them, it’s really about what we’re trying to do and what we want to do.

“The fact they’re missing players is irrelevant. We expect a tough game.”

Okon expected to bring a full-strength side to Canberra, which the former Socceroo said was like a “second home” to him.

He’s spent plenty of time in the nation’s capital as a coach with the Australian under-20s and under-23s.

The Mariners coach hoped Canberra residents would support the game and promised them an attacking spectacle at Canberra Stadium.

He said Central Coast’s strength lay in their attacking players Roy O’Donovan, Blake Powell, Connor Pain and Fabio Ferreira – who he said were as good as any in the A-League.

While Okon said the Mariners would take confidence from the 2-1 victory over reigning champions Adelaide United on the weekend, they went into every game wanting to win so it wouldn’t change their approach.

“Our front-four attack is up there with all the other teams in the A-League,” Okon said.

“That’s our intention, to take the game to the opposition and hopefully that brings along chances and Wellington has a real attacking philosophy.

“We’ve played them twice in pre-season and both games were both teams really having a go so I’d expect that’s what will happen on Saturday.”


Saturday: Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix at Canberra Stadium, 5.35pm. Tickets available at Ticketek.


Saturday: Canberra United v Melbourne City at Canberra Stadium, 3pm. Tickets available at Ticketek.

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