Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss was full of praise for his players after a 1-1 draw with Wellington Phoenix at Eden Park.
“I can’t speak highly enough of them. They dug deep today and I asked for that before the game," Moss said.
“We’re not celebrating but we’re certainly going home with our pride intact.
"Wellington are one of the form teams of the comp, so to come here and get a point and take a step forward with what we’re trying to build gives us a lot of confidence moving forward.”
The Mariners mentor also revealed his side’s build-up to the game was disrupted by travel delays.
“Our flight got delayed by four hours so we didn’t have a pre-match training session," Moss said.
"We basically got to the hotel in time for dinner and bed. That’s a big upheaval to the players’ pre-match routine.
"You could see our match legs weren’t there in the first fifteen minutes because we didn’t train yesterday; we just sat in an airport all day then sat on a plane for three hours.
"That just adds to the sweet taste of getting a point away from home against an in-form team like Wellington Phoenix.”
The Phoenix had a number of first-half chances, but were unable to convert and Moss credited his defensive line for that.
“Certainly they had some really good chances but we defended our box like our lives depended on it. The harder you work the more luck you make for yourself. Our boys showed a hell of a lot of character tonight. Our last-ditch defending in our box was absolutely outstanding against quality strikers.”
Moss also reserved praise for veteran striker Matt Simon, who scored the Mariners’ goal in just his second appearance of the season.
“I’m so happy for Simmo to get off the mark and score that goal. He worked his backside off for 94 minutes and there’s no way he’s ready for 94 minutes of football yet but he got through on heart and that epitomises what the Mariners are all about. He just gives you that presence and that target and he gives you aggression. Siggy and Simmo were mixing it with each other in the first half and that’s all part of the game. You can’t be a shrinking violet to play this game.”
Moss also believes the result could mark a turning point in his side’s disappointing season to date.
“We haven’t had any luck for eight weeks. We rode our luck today – there’s no doubt about that – and Wellington were by far the better team in the first half, but you’ve got to grind out results sometimes. We’re probably lacking a bit of confidence at the moment, but we’ve got a lot of belief. You only get confidence out of performance and results and that performance today – and the fact we’ve scored another goal – will give us a lot of confidence to go with our belief heading into the Perth game.”