A defensive mistake handed Connor Pain an early winner at Pluim Park in Lisarow on Tuesday night as both sides gave plenty of players game time in a lively and well-tempoed pre-season hitout.
Paul Okon has drawn first blood against the man who briefly mentored him in Europe as the Mariners and Phoenix played out a lively 1-0 game in front of a healthy pre-season crowd in Lisarow.
Both sides enjoyed a mix of good chances but second-half heroics from substitute ‘keeper Ben Kennedy ultimately proved the difference.
It was a game that started at good intensity as both sides looked to play possession football with a fair amount of pressing when not with the ball.
Phoenix had the first half-chance of the evening as a foul on Sarpreet Singh allowed Michael McGlinchey to fire in an whipped freekick, but it just evaded the head of skipper Andrew Durante.
A misplaced pass at the back gave Mariners an early look, and Connor Pain made absolutely no mistake in the 7th minute slotting a well-placed finish calmly past Lewis Italiano between the sticks.
Dutch import Tom Hiariej looked to impose himself in midfield as he caught Roy Krishna with a tough sliding challenge, but the Fijian showed no long term ill-effect.
Scott Galloway received a cool reception from home fans and he almost silenced the boo-boys when he picked out Gui Finkler in the 17th minute but the Brazilian dallied and Mariners ‘keeper Tom Glover did well to save at his feet.
Both sides proceeded to enjoy good spells with Mariners breaking quickly in transition with Pain especially dangerous down the left and only a series of fine clearing headers from captain Durante and Daniel Mullen prevented the home side from extending their lead.
Oli Sail replace Italiano at half-time and he was nearly reaching into his net as Hiariej blasted over after a layoff by former Nix flyer Kwabena Appiah.
Hamish Watson then drew a great save from fellow half-time keeping substitute Ben Kennedy who palmed away the striker’s thumping first-time volley.
As the game began to open up Appiah became more and more prominent, but Tom Doyle stuck well to his task blocking the winger’s shots well on several occasions.
Andrija Kaludjerovic entered the fray on the hour mark and he quickly had an influence on proceedings, his jinking run took him past a defender before picking out Krishna whose blasted shot produced the save of the night from Kennedy in the 67th minute.
Inside a minute it was almost the Mariners who scored though, as Hiariej looped a shot just past Sail’s post.
As both sides rang the changes the contest proceeded to open up, Central Coast’s pacy wide men causing all kinds of havoc, with Sail needing to be alert between the sticks.
It was his opposite number Kennedy though who proved decisive – a brilliant double save in the 87th minute ensuring Mariners kept a clean sheet.
A good night out for the 2,000-3,000 locals who turned out, with both coaches getting a great opportunity to fine-tune their opening round game plans.