The Central Coast Mariners will return to the semi-finals of the FFA Cup for the first time since 2014 after overcoming a spate of wasteful finishing to defeat NPL Victoria side Hume City 1-0.
After failing to break down a resolute Hume for 92 minutes the newly signed Abraham Majok proved the hero for the 2018/19 A-League wooden spooners; poking home from a goalmouth scramble with what proved to be almost his last kick of the game.
Though Hume had developed a reputation as Cup specialists in recent years, one major accolade had eluded them. In all their runs into the Round of 32, the 2015 semi-final run standing out as a highlight, the side from ABD Stadium had failed to claim the scalp of an A-League side.
One of the heroes of that run to the 2015 semi-final that ended in defeat to Melbourne Victory was Nick Hegerty, who now found himself plotting his side’s path to victory not from his position at the heart of Hume’s midfield but instead from the dugout; the Englishman having made the permanent switch to the dugout in 2019 and winning NPL Victoria Coach of the Year honours in his first season.
That elusive win, however, will now have to wait at least another year.
Loading up on early corners, the Mariners came out of the blocks firing at ABD Stadium, reducing their opponents to speculative bombs forward as they monopolised possession.
Matt Simon went close to opening the scoring in the 11th minute of play when he met a cross from Milan Duric at the back post and forced a strong save from Hume keeper Michael Weier at his near post.
Boxed in, Hume’s best chance of the early stages arrived in the 23rd minute when the man with the most soul in Victorian football – James Brown – followed his cross from the right into the Mariners area and was waiting to swing a volleyed effort on goal after it was headed clear.
Unfortunately for Brown and the large Hume crowd in attendance, the shot could only find the side netting.
Whilst they may not have been treated to their side stealing the lead against the run of play, the vocal ‘Red and White Army’ that packed into the left hand side of the grandstand in Broadmeadows was certainly creating a hostile environment for the visiting A-League side; erupting when Duric went into the book on the near touchline in the 31st minute.
Unfortunately, they were silenced three minutes later when an Oar free-kick that was floated into the Hume area from the right was nodded onward and looked to have nestled itself into the back of the net. The angles from the grandstand, however, were deceiving and the Hume faithful soon found their voice again when it became apparent the ball had just flashed wide.
Perhaps feeding off the Red and White Army’s energy, the hosts began to drag themselves back into the contest as the half wore on and went close to opening the scoring in the 38th minute when Steven Hewitt attempted to volley home from a Danny Dixon cross only to be denied by new Mariners keeper Mark Birighitti.
There was to be no feeling out process upon the resumption of hostilities in the second 45, with Oar flashing a shot just wide for the Mariners in the 48th minute and Delic going agonisingly close with a curling effort that went wide up the other end.
Three minutes later the Mariners came even close to breaking the deadlock when, spotting the Weier off his line, an audacious long-range from Samuel Silvera crashed off the bottom of the crossbar, back into play find the feet of De Silva. De Silva, though, could only put his follow up effort wide.
Weier, the 2019 NPL Victoria Goalkeeper of the Year, was then called into action to keep his side level when a Duric free kick taken just centimetres from the edge of the penalty area was hammered in on goal.
The stalemate, therefore, remained; the seconds ticking away and the prospect of extra time and penalties looming.
Dixon had a chance to win it for his side in the 81st minute when he looped a close-range free kick on goal but was unable to hit the target whilst up the other end Oar fizzled a shot wide in the 88th.
Summing up the Mariners wasteful night, substitute Majok was then unable to make contact with a tap in in the game’s 90th minute.
Majok, though, redeemed himself in 92nd minute of play.
Floating a free-kick into the area from the left, Silvera found the head of Simon who, in turn, had his header blocked. Pouncing on the ball in the resulting scramble, Majok was able to poke the ball over the line to steal the win for his side.