A CROWD-pleasing, back-and-forth A-League battle between Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne City at Oakes Oval, Lismore, ended with a 1-all draw yesterday.
City started well in the first 45 minutes of the friendly soccer match, barging into the Mariners' defensive territory numerous times to the excitement of the crowd, which numbered in the thousands.
But despite City's superior ball-handling and technical skill, Mariners were able to halt the attack many times, with a great deal of help from standout centre back Eddy Bosnar.
Mariners goalkeeper Liam Reddy provided an impenetrable barrier throughout the game, deflecting strong attacks from the likes of Irish import forward Damien Duff.
Despite a few strong runs, Mariners finished the first half in a slump when compared with their aggressive opposition, who were unlucky not to rack up early points.
As the second half began, City continued to dominate the proceedings, with defender Rob Wielaert chipping a goal amid a bustling fracas at the Mariners' end roughly 10 minutes in.
Spurred into action, the Mariners managed to gain some ground just minutes later, barging towards City's goal before Anthony Cáceres was tripped by Wielaert and the Mariners received a timely penalty kick.
Malick Mané slugged it through City's goalkeeper, Tando Velaphi, to even the score.
City, seemingly irate after the Mariner's redeeming goal, claimed possession for much of the remaining game, save for bursts of excellence by the Mariners, but were unable to capitalise.
It was only due to strong net defence by Reddy that the Mariners were able to hold out on 1-1 until the very end.
Mariners coach Phil Moss was satisfied, considering his team's busy week training youth squads around Lismore.
"First off, we didn't see much of the ball, so it was a good defensive session I suppose. You can't get that sort of defensive workout in training," he said.
"We made a couple of tactical adjustments at half-time and I think that made a bit of difference - we started to get into our rhythm."
City coach John van 't Schip was pleased with the game overall, but disappointed City couldn't clinch the win.
"Looking at the way we played, we needed to get those 1, 2, 3 goals. But we were one up and conceded one almost immediately after," he said.
The match marked the culmination of a week-long Mariners pre-season camp in Lismore.
Reddy was a wall to Melbourne City's ball
DEFLECTING balls left, right and centre, Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Liam Reddy proved a powerful performer in yesterday's A-League football match at Lismore.
Melbourne City took on the Mariners in the friendly that finished in a 1-1 draw thanks in large part to Reddy's skilful show of reflexes.
Despite City launching a barrage of kicks and headers on goal as they dominated possession, Reddy remained calm and collected and thought quickly on his feet.
Mariners coach Phil Moss said Reddy had been crucial in denying City the win.
"He kept us in the game a few times in the first half and his distribution was pretty good," he said.
"He's a top-class keeper and we're very happy to have him at the Mariners."
While Moss lauded Reddy's effort, the 'keeper was modest about his contribution, steering conversation towards the Mariners' team effort.
"It was a good hit-out for us. Obviously it was our second hit-out after our FFA Cup game so it was good to play against quality opponents," he said.
"I think defensively we had good structure but we have lots to work on.
"Melbourne have recruited well in the off-season and they'll be a good team, although it's only early days."
Reddy said the Lismore community had welcomed the Mariners with open arms.
"The people have been fantastic and we've been training at a great ground. They've really helped us out here and it's been really enjoyable to get away from the Central Coast for the week," he said.