Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss has applauded the depth of his squad as they collected their first ever home win against the Western Sydney Wanderers after a 90th minute goal to substitute Bernie Ibini secured them the 2-1 triumph on Saturday night in Gosford.
The result means the reigning champions will finish the round in second spot after Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory drew 1-1 later in the evening.
Ibini’s fifth goal of the season came after the Mariners had let the Wanderers back into the match when Nikolai Topor-Stanley levelled proceedings five minutes before the break after Joshua Rose had given the Mariners the lead in the 32nd minute.
With two weeks to go in the home and away season Moss says competition for spots is hotter than ever.
"I have said this to the boys for the last three to four weeks, ‘no-one deserves to be on the bench and no-one deserves to be in the grandstand,'" Moss said.
"Every single player who is a Mariners player at the moment could be in the starting eleven so it’s a very, very tough job every week picking the team and picking the bench. So the boys that come on and do their job doesn’t surprise me at all, we know what they are capable of, Bernie (Ibini) and Dukey (Mitchell Duke).
"Monty (Nick Montgomery) came on and steadied the ship in midfield as well."
"When everyone is pulling their weight and doing their job this is the end result, you start to get three points every week."
Moss went on to talk up his side's title credentials, saying the Mariners performance demonstrated what they can do against the league's top teams.
"Tonight we just made a statement that we are here and we are here for keeps.
“We can achieve whatever it is we want to achieve if we can perform like that on the big stage against a quality side like Western Sydney and I thought there was a few questions thrown up this week about what class we had and I thought we answered those tonight.
In addition to responding to recent criticism Moss was pleased that his men adapted to Western Sydney’s tactics as the game wore on.
"At times in the past we have struggled to get out a little bit against teams that press high and we have been working on that and I thought the results were there tonight to show we are starting to get it.
"You have got to be able to be able to play against teams that press high, teams that drop off, teams that are compact in midfield and teams that leave space in behind in them if you can be adaptable (it helps.)
"We are playing in two competitions and the moment and if you are not patient with the ball in Asia you get eaten alive so it’s good to see what we can carry a bit of our Asian football into the A-League and vice-versa."
Expanding on the decision to not renew star midfielder Marco Flores' contract for next season, Moss labelled it "the toughest decision I’ve had to make since taking over the job."
Alluding to the financial impost of Flores’ deal, part of which is still being paid by former club Melbourne Victory, Moss said, "Unfortunately my hands were tied behind my back a little bit in terms of the size of the squad we are allowed to have and the salary cap.”
On Tuesday evening the Mariners host Beijing Guoan in their second home match for the AFC Champions League group stage and Moss expects all his current squad to be available, including Matt Simon who suffered severe cramps with eight minutes remaining.comments