Jason Cummings bagged a brace as the Mariners farewell Garang Kuol with a 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory (Image: Central Coast Mariners - Twitter)

More than 10,000 fans flocked to Industree Group Stadium on the Central Coast to see Garang Kuol play his final A-League game before departing to join Newcastle United in the English Premier League. The Mariners didn’t disappoint the fans, overcoming Melbourne Victory 2-1 to close out 2022 sitting second on the ladder.

Kuol had just the third start of his A-League career, the 18-year-old was electric from the kick-off. He found open space with ease and was demanding the Victory defenders pay him more attention, he played a long switching ball to start the play which opened the scoring in the 11th minute.

Kuol played 78 minutes of his final game, and was a key reason they managed to find the front again once the visitors drew level. Mariners’ Coach Nick Montgomery was overjoyed with the result and says it was exactly how the club wanted to send Garang off.

“It was a good win tonight, it doesn’t matter where we sit on the ladder because theres a long way to go,” Montgomery told reporters after the game.

“It was an important result for us at home, coming off a tough trip to Melbourne in that heat.

“I’m really happy with the win, I thought we deserved the three points today.

“It was unfortunate that Garang didn’t get himself a goal to go away with, I thought he deserved that penalty. But he’ll always be a part of the Mariners family, we’ll continue to support him and we wish him the best.”

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Jason Cummings dominated the stat sheet to earn himself a brace and bring his season tally to six. Although he put a third in the back of the net before it was called offside, and had a chance late in the first half that was pushed just wide of the post.

Since joining the Mariners last January, Cummings has revived his career and become a key part of Montgomery’s side. The 27-year-old has scored 16 goals in         his 31 appearances, forming a deadly duo with Kuol who has been a trademark assassin in the dying stages of games.

Cummings’ form earnt him a regular spot in the Socceroos squad, scoring on his international debut against New Zealand in September. Montgomery believes the Mariners talisman is one of the best strikers in the league and has been unlucky with VAR.

“I think Jason [Cummings] would probably top scorer with Mclaren if it wasn’t for all the VAR,” he said.

“That’s five or six he’s had disallowed now, it’s unfortunate for him but I’ve told him he’s just got to keep scoring.

 “At this point he’s probably got to score two to get one, so if he keeps doing that then he’s still a chance [at the golden boot]. He’s a top striker and he’s just finding form.”

Montgomery received a yellow on Saturday night for confronting the referee when he spoke to the fourth official about a decision he didn’t agree with. He says “he’s a passionate coach” and he “loves to get involved in the game”.

The Mariners’ boss thinks his side has had a tough run with officiating and especially the use of VAR in decision-making. He mentioned a few particular moments he’d found issues with but insists all he wants to see is consistency across the league.

“I don’t know why I got the yellow, I was talking to the fourth official not Daniel Elder,” he said.

“I was a little irate that Sammy Silvera gets a yellow card when he wins the ball and gets fouled. Last week it was Beni Nkololo when Matthew Leckie tackled his own player.

“It’s decisions like that when you have VAR I don’t understand how it can happen.

“You want VAR to be there to get the decisions right, I just want consistency as a coach and I don’t think we get that at times.”

The Mariners will stay at home next week to face a travelling Adelaide side that will be hungry to jump into the top four. Victory will return to Melbourne off a six-day break to host a Brisbane side determined to bet back on the winner’s list.

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