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Youthful Mariners outplayed by Phoenix

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/12/2016 Cathy Walshe

Injury and inexperience are proving a costly combination for Central Coast Mariners, who slumped to their fifth loss of the A-League season on Saturday, beaten 3-0 by Wellington Phoenix in Hamilton.

Any hopes of catching the Phoenix at a low ebb following the recent resignation of coach Ernie Merrick were short-lived when Kosta Barbarouses put the Kiwis ahead after just 90 seconds.

Second-half goals to Vince Lia and Roy Krishna compounded the Mariners' misery as Okon's youthful outfit struggled to create opportunities in the attacking third.

They sorely missed experienced campaigners Mickael Tavares, seeking treatment in Europe for an ankle injury, and captain Nick Montgomery, still working his way back from a hamstring strain.

The Mariners struggled for traction in the midfield and were also vulnerable to the Phoenix's counterattacking game, particularly after an ankle injury forced stand-in skipper Storm Roux from the field late in the first half.

"It's no secret we're lacking experience at the moment - any team that's going to lose Nick Montgomery and Mickael Tavares is going to struggle," Okon said.

"We've got some kids, and we need to use them. It is what it is."

Okon said there was little chance the Mariners would be boosting their stocks in the A-League's January transfer window.

"Our roster's full - there's maybe only one spot available, and I don't think there's too much money there."

He wouldn't be drawn on comments made by his Irish striker Roy O'Donovan earlier in the week calling for more investment to reinforce Central Coast's paper-thin midfield stocks.

O'Donovan said it was obvious that the Mariners lacked depth, and the best way to create some was by spending money.

"I never saw the interview - Roy has his opinion, and I respect that," Okon said.

The former Australian under-20 coach said the Mariners had plenty of promising young talent, pointing to teenagers Liam Rose and Adam Berry as examples.

The pair worked hard in the midfield, but struggled to see out the 90 minutes, with Rose in particular hit hard by cramps later in the game.

"That's where he is at the moment - he's a 19-year-old kid," Okon said.

"I don't have the solutions to fix that. We've just got to keep pushing, and try to get him up to speed because he's certainly a player for the future.

"In between us getting to that point where we can really look at strengthening the team, there are going to be these situations and these results."

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