Western coach Mark Rooke was left lamenting his side's lack of game management in Monday's Football NSW National Premier League 3 loss to Bankstown United FC, the Mariners failing to close the game out after leading early in the second half.
Although Bankstown constantly threatened the Mariners had determinedly shrugged off the first half loss of Jaiden Culbert to work their way to a one-goal lead 10 minutes into the second period at Jack Brabham Park's Bernie Stedman Field.
Culbert was carried off at the 33-minute mark after being stepped on accidentally following a tough challenge and after toughing it out without his imposing presence on the wing, the Mariners took a 2-1 lead in the 50th minute courtesy of Kenny McCall's second goal.
For about 75 minutes we were good and then the other 15 we just didn't do well enough.Western NSW Mariners FC coach Mark Rooke
Bankstown fired straight back though and following Marcus Donatiello's equaliser the hosts lost control of the rescheduled, round four clash, the visitors taking full advantage and rifling home another three goals to eventually secure a convincing, 5-2 win.
Those three goals came in the space of just 11 minutes too, with skipper Steve Wright slotting two of them in the 66th and 71st.
"We knew they'd play switch out balls a lot and they did, we just didn't do what we needed to do. We even spoke about [Wright] being one of their biggest dangers in the second half and then you see him come out and score two goals, so it's disappointing," Rooke said after the physical, firey encounter.
"(After half time) we needed to play on the counter and execute well and we did that for the first part of the second half to take the lead, but our game management after that just wasn't good enough."
Both sides were backing up from 1-nil victories on Saturday afternoon, the Mariners' coming over Granville and Bankstown's over the Inter Lions, and although Rooke said the short turnaround clearly took a toll he didn't use it as an excuse for the defeat.
"The guys were out on their feet there in the second half but Bankstown did the same thing we did playing on Saturday and backing up, and they travelled as well, so hats off to them," Rooke said.
"The issue with game management has been ongoing since the start of the year, we haven't done well with it. Saturday's game was fantastic, our game management was good and we did what we needed to do, we just need to learn to do that on a more consistent basis.
WATCH: Bankstown skipper Steve Wright produces a clinical finish to score his second
"The guys are coming together, but once again for about 75 minutes we were good and then the other 15 we just didn't do well enough."
Wright was understandably stoked to come away from the tough road trip with a win, and lauded his troops' ability to "keep the pressure on after falling behind".
"We're pretty pleased to get the three points. We knew it would be tough backing up and coming from Sydney, especially with the effort the Mariners put in, they're always hard to play out here whether it be at Orange, Bathurst or Lithgow," he said.
"They played really physically. I thought we had the better of the first 20 minutes but they warmed into the game and they were first to everything for a while there, they really pressed us in the first 20 of the second half too, so it was good to see the boys keep the pressure on after falling behind, score a few and get a really good result."
WATCH: Western goalkeeper Brock Logan gets aerial to bat a free kick over
Star Bankstown striker Mitch Cross actually gave the visitors a 1-nil lead just four minutes into the game when he whipped one past Mariners' gloveman Brock Logan, but that woke the hosts up.
They had their first chance at the 14-minute mark but Matthew Hobby cleared the bar, before Donatiello thumped a shot into the right post at the other end three minutes later.
The two sides traded chances until Culbert was carried off, which spurred a lift in intensity from the home side which resulted in McCall's first, a slick finish off the head from a pinpoint Hobby delivery from the right wing.
McCall's second five minutes in the second half gave the Mariners the lead, but it was short-lived as Donatiello scorched a strike past Logan to once again force a deadlock five minutes later.
He provided a couple more chances for Bankstown's middle men too as the visitors began to win the upper hand, and caught the Mariners napping with a quick corner at the 66-minute mark.
While the Mariners questioned whether it should be a goal kick or a corner the visitors caught their defensive unit off guard and Wright was able to punch his first in from the top of the box, before finishing well with his head from another corner five minutes later.
In the blink of an eye Bankstown had rocketed to a 4-2 lead, which came 5-2 when Cross completed his brace in the 77th minute.
"Well, we'd let two in so I had to make up for that somehow but it's always good to get on the scoresheet," Wright laughed, the big centre back making no secret of how much he enjoyed finding the back of the net twice.
The Mariners will look to bounce back and score their second win of 2019 in next Sunday's eighth round against the Dunbar Rovers, at the same ground, while Bankstown will have an obvious opportunity for a third straight win against Granville.
- BANKSTOWN UNITED FC 5 (Steve Wright 66', 71', Mitch Cross 4', 78', Marcus Donatiello 53') def WESTERN NSW MARINERS FC 2 (Kenny McCall 35', 50')
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