After a very successful season with Alen Stajcic, the Mariners continued to build under the guidance of new head coach Nick Montgomery.
On the 2nd of July, 2021, former Premier League midfielder Nick Montgomery was appointed as the successor of Alen Stajcic and fans were quick to predict that the Mariners will go into disarray and drop out of a finals spot.
But at Central Coast Stadium there was no doubt. The people at the club knew what they were getting with the appointment of the former youth team coach and there was real confidence that he will continue to build in the right direction.
The Mariners started the season really well, winning their Round 1 Derby against the Jets and following up with some excellent performances against Sydney FC and the Wanderers at home.
They also reached the first-ever FFA Cup Final in the history of the club. In the run-up to it, they had to beat NPL sides Blacktown City, Wollongong Wolves, APIA Leichhardt, and fellow A-League team Sydney FC.
In their four games before the final, which they eventually lost, the NSW-based club scored 10 goals and conceded only one, with the defensive partnership of Kye Rowles and Dan Hall starting to shape up.
At the start of 2022, there was a dip in form, which is to be expected from such a young team, but as the season progressed, Nick Montgomery and his staff got things back on track and managed to secure a spot in the top six.
Mark Birighitti was at his best between the sticks, the young back-four was impressive, the midfield was solid, despite the exclusion of Oliver Bozanic, and the attack, spearheaded by Socceroos hopeful Jason Cummings, was firing on all cylinders.
Overall it was a debut season to remember for Montgomery and his squad as they won 42 points, just as many as they did under Stajcic the year before, scored the most goals (49) since 2010/11, and made a clean sweep of the F3 Derbies against the Jets.
There were definitely more highs than there were lows for the Mariners this season, but if you ask Mariners fans, what the lowest moments of the season were, they’d probably point to the FFA Cup Final loss and the early exit from the A-League finals.
The loss in the Cup against Melbourne Victory came after two wonder goals from Jason Davidson and Chris Ikonomidis, while the 3-1 defeat to Adelaide was even more frustrating.
The Mariners dominated possession at Hindmarsh Stadium but failed to create the needed chances and were punished by the Reds in transition.
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When talking about the most important player in the Mariners squad, you can probably make a good case for four or five players.
Mark Birighitti was consistently brilliant, Kye Rowles was a rock at the back, Beni N’Kololo grew with time and performed exceptionally, but it’s hard to go past talismanic striker Jason Cummings.
The former Rangers striker joined Central Coast in late January and it took him just 57 minutes to show fans in Australia what he’s capable of, with a well-taken goal against Sydney FC.
The 26-year-old started every single A-League game until the end of the season, scoring 10 goals and providing five assists in the process, finishing just five goals short of the Golden Boot winner.
Former NPL-winning captain Dan Hall was arguably the best of a few standout youngsters who got a chance under Montgomery during the 2021/2022 campaign.
With Ruon Tongyik out with a long-term injury, Hall managed to cement a spot alongside Kye Rowles and even outperformed the Socceroos centre-back on a couple of occasions.
The 2021/2022 season will be remembered as a successful one and one that should set the standard for the club going forward.
Keeping the core of the squad, while also adding fresh names, should be the priority in the off-season for Montgomery and his men as they head into, hopefully, a COVID-free year that will give them a chance to fulfil their potential.
Other clubs will surely show their interest in some of the Mariners’ stars, but if they manage to keep the likes of Jason Cummings, Mark Birighitti, Jacob Farrell, and Josh Nisbet, then their fans should feel comfortable walking into the new season.
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