Yeah alright then. Okay. We see you. Three points, eight goals, two young kiwi debutants off the bench, Roy Krishna going tied-top of the top goal scorer’s charts, the Welly Nix up to fourth on the ladder (the last two obviously just temporary benefits), and for the second time this season a manager has lost his job after getting thrashed by the Wellington Phoenix. All in all a good night.
Yikes, poor Mike Mulvey though. At least when John Aloisi quit his post after losing 4-1 to the Nix in December, he left of his own accord. Old mate Mulvey had to endure an absolute hiding at his own home ground, he had to walk out of there to the boos of his own fans, he had to conduct his last telly interview while the Nix folks celebrated in the background, and then they sacked him at like 1am in the morning because apparently they just couldn’t wait until the morning. Then again I guess he’s free now. Spread your wings and fly, my son. They cannot hold you down any longer.
Max Burgess started in midfield and Anthony Golec started at left centre back. With Alex Rufer suspended for what was effectively a must-win match (because with the scrap for fourth/top six as tight as it is you simply cannot drop points against the bottom team), you’d have pegged Michal Kopczynski for the CM next to Mandi but he was required in defence with Steven Taylor kinda sorta still injured and all that. What’s worse is that this came with Tom Doyle and Justin Gulley also out injured and Dylan Fox done for the season. And Nathan Burns didn’t make it through the warm-ups, costing him his spot on the bench. Six players missing from the squad, pretty much at bare minimum.
But on the plus side this all meant that young lad Gianni Stensness went straight onto the bench in the week that he was properly promoted to the senior squad and, with Burnsy out, Callan Elliot was called up at late notice. Stensness going against the club he signed from, same deal with Golec. Funny how things work out, aye? Golec played LCB with Kopa sliding over to the right. Otherwise, Burgess aside, the rest of them were all where you’d expect them to be.
Despite the absentees the stage was set for a very productive night against a team that’d offer up a little more space than some of their recent opponents. But the early stages of this game saw a Nix team stuck on the back foot against a positive home side with a fair bit to prove. Reminded you that the last time these two teams played it was 2-0 to CCM at half-time and it took a red card and some quality off the bench to get the Nix a 3-2 victory.
Aaaand then Roy Krishna did some cool things and Sam Graham hacked the ball into his own net. Eight minutes gone, the Phoenix scoring on basically their first decent attacking move. Fast forward to the 21st minute and the Nix were 3-0 up. Roy Krishna has been quite well handled by defences lately, and the sight of him running at full pace directly towards defenders/goalkeepers has become a rarity… but CCM were a most obliging host. His finish for the second goal was a delight, lobbing the ball over Ben Kennedy and then he gave it the subdued celebration because he’s Roy Krishna and scoring goals his thing that he does. David Williams then scored a sweet third after Krishna had won the ball on halfway and Sarpreet Singh had fed Willo through. The tea was still hot in the pot and this game already felt like it was done.
Honestly it was that simple. The Mariners were competitive until they made one mistake and then they just dropped their heads. There were sloppy mistakes all over the show. Guys weren’t interested in tracking back. They looked the exact picture of the kind of team that the Nix used to be, lacking in confidence and composure as soon as things go against them. It’s sad, to be honest. But this is a competitive league so the Nix had no choice but to stay ruthless.
Krishna scored another one in stoppage time and if it weren’t for Ben Kennedy then it would have been five or six already. It got to five or six soon after the break. Krishna set up Libby Cacace’s first A-League goal and then Louis Fenton got in on the action because it’s only fair that both wingbacks get one. In between those two goals Sarpreet Singh scored and if you’ve lost count then I don’t blame you. That was 7-0 with half an hour still to go. It was like… I mean… yeah. I don’t even know.
Jack Clisby and Stephen Mallon each scored excellent goals to give the Mariners something to cling to, but Singh scored his second late on and it ended 8-2. A ridiculous score-line. The Nix had scored three goals in their previous six games and here they scored eight all at once. The Nix’s new biggest ever victory. All a bit overwhelming to be honest.
Max Burgess was brilliant. He’s a solid player who has had plenty of little cameos where he didn’t get to do much and he’s been teased as a midfielder before so not at all a shock to see him get this game. But seeing him shrugging folks off the ball, looking strong in possession, knocking the ball around comfortably… that was fun. He’s got a bit of presence about him, doesn’t go astray in the midfield.And the pass he made for Krishna’s second goal was just utterly magical.
But at the same time could Burgie do this against Sydney or Perth? Probs no, tbh. Those teams actually have midfielders that move around off the ball (sorry Wee Mac, it’s not your fault). Like, he was brilliant on the night and shout out to Max for taking advantage of a rare opportunity to play extended minutes – to put his game in perspective he had played 181 minutes in 15 appearances prior to playing all 90 mins here – but I doubt we can take too much from this game considering the opposition. Krishna will keep scoring goals. He has 14 for the season and is only two shy of Jeremy Brockie’s club record. Libby Cacace will continue to charge up and down the left flank. Mandi will keep dishing out passes with ease. But Max Burgess isn’t all of a sudden the reincarnated version of Paul Scholes/Steven Gerrard (take your pick, it’s a subjective one).
Still, Burgie just proved he can be a decent backup midfielder and with Sarpreet Singh picking up his fifth yellow, meaning he’s suspended for next week against Western Sydney, Burgess should probably get his reward with another start in that one. Mark Rudan has always played the hot hand. The alternative is Cillian Sheridan in a deeper role and not sure that really suits him (then again, woulda said the same about Burgess a few weeks back).
Which is guts to Cillian Sheridan because my one concern from this game was why Rudy didn’t chuck The Sherriff out there early in the second half to give him an extended run and a great chance for his first goal. Instead he only got ten minutes and I can’t figure out why. What else did David Williams and Roy Krishna have to offer at 7-0 up? Krishna was on a hatty but still. Kinda weird. Especially since there was no hesitation in chucking Callan Elliot out there at right back for the last 24 minutes. First time he’s been in a matchday squad and he’s now already played more than twice as many minutes as Reuben Way.
What a moment. Callan Elliot, 19 years old outta Nelson (with a bit of Scotland in there too, chur to the wee fella). Signed out of Tasman United at the start of the season and having been one of the most consistent lads for the WeeNix since then. A graduate of Paul Ifill’s academy. A NZ U20 squad member. And he’s not the only one because Gianni Stensness is also likely to make the U20 World Cup squad later in the year and with a couple minutes left he was introduced off the bench for a debut and a stretch of the legs. Imagine telling yourself a couple months back that we’d end a game with Stensness and Burgess in midfield.
Sarpreet Singh was pleasantly involved in most of the goals. The whole front three benefitted from a CCM defence that was full of errors and weird positioning but Sarpreet really needed a game like this. He’d not been having the same level of impact on games over the last month or so and that had coincided with that lack of team goals recently. However he timed that yellow card about as well as a lower-order Bangladeshi batsman on a green seamer because if he’d lasted one more game then he’d have reached the 21-game shift where accumulation suspensions only kick in after the eighth yellow (and then every subsequent three). Singh fell one game short and will miss next week. Louis Fenton, Roy Krishna, Steven Taylor and Tom Doyle, all still on four, got away with it. In Fenton’s case it’s a bit of a miracle – he had three bookings after four games and in seventeen games since just the one. Andy Durante is two yellows from a suspension and nobody else is within three anymore. Sweet relief.
We also saw a solid starting debut for Antony Golec and as a legit LCB I’ll be interested to see if he’s challenging Kopa for that gig when Steven Taylor comes back. And we need Stevie T back and ready to go for that run in to the finals, no doubt about it. The Nix play next week then have a week off so he might not be pushed for that game. But then the WSW game is another crucial one in the race for the top four/six. They all are from this point on. Ultimately it depends on how close Taylor is to fitness because if he’s ready then he’s playing regardless, also no doubt about it.
Life lesson: success and failure are temporary so we can’t get too carried away by this one outstanding game. The Mariners were so bad that it negates all major key melodies. That’s cool though, we got this one-off crazy opportunity and we cashed in. A six goal boost to the ol’ goal difference is enormous. Adelaide, M.City & Newcastle are all on +1 GD so suddenly the Nix have the upper hand there on the tiebreaker with six games to go and are into fourth place as a result.
I’m also gonna suggest we keep it zen and don’t get carried away by sitting fourth because the table only matters when the regular season wraps up. Though it’s useful to be playing from out in front. Five points clear of seventh and we play Newcastle at home in three weeks. Win that and the finals should be on lock… which means it’s time to say once more that sixth is not good enough. Fourth is where it’s at. Get that home semi in round one. Win that and you never know because this Nix team has been a streaky lot this season. A three-game losing streak earlier in the season (only three defeats in total since) followed by a nine-game unbeaten streak, followed by a run with just one win in six games and only three goals scored… now they’ve gone and popped eight past CCM and their next five games are all against teams placed below them on the ladder.
This one massive win doesn’t mean they’ve solved their attacking deficiencies or anything. Next week they’ll hit kick off at 0-0 same as always, no matter what happened in Gosford. But this was a bit of a statement win that’ll get the rest of the league taking notice again, like nosy neighbours peeking through their drawn curtains. Peeking out with judgement and fear while we all chill out watching highlights of Saturday night over and over. Jeez, there were some good goals.
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