Central Coast’s strikeforce has Irish striker smiling


New arrivals Blake Powell and Connor Pain, plus Portuguese winger Fabio Ferreira combining with Roy O’Donovan up front has the Irish striker excited ahead of Season 2016/17 in the Hyundai A-League.

“It’s going to be a good strike force,” Mariners centre-forward O’Donovan told Goal Australia.

“Obviously, Blake’s playing as a number 10 this year, and we’ve got Connor and Fabio on the wings, so hopefully it’s going to be a good production line for me.”

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O’Donovan scored eight goals in 19 games for the Mariners last season, though an eight-game suspension for headbutting Manny Muscat reduced his opportunities.

The 31-year-old former Sunderland player believes Central Coast’s speed and movement up front will cause opponents problems this campaign, with both Powell and Ferreira capable of leading the line for Okon’s side.

Central Coast Mariners striker Roy O'Donovan challenges for the ball with Jets midfielder Ben Kantarovski.

“If the four of us are on the same wavelength there should be no reason why each and every one of us can’t play in each other’s position at times in a game,” O’Donovan said.

“I don’t think there’s any problem if Blake wants to run in behind and I can drop in or vice-versa if Fabio wants to come off the line and I’ll drift out or Blake drifts out.”

And O’Donovan is convinced Central Coast Mariners are “heading in the right direction” under new coach Paul Okon as they look to bounce back from a dreadful 2015-16 campaign.

Okon took over from Tony Walmsley in early August after the latter was sacked following the Mariners’ Westfield FFA Cup exit to Green Gully. 

And the the former Young Socceroos boss has quickly made a good impression on O’Donovan and the rest of Central Coast’s squad.

Central Coast Mariners boss Paul Okon guides his team through a training session.

The Mariners were awful last season, with their total of 13 points from 27 games earning them the second-worst points-per-game record in A-League history.

Central Coast conceded 70 goals in 2015-16 – 16 more than the next worst defensive side – but O’Donovan is confident Okon’s ideas and the addition of Senegalese pair Jacques Faty and Mickael Tavares will ensure the Mariners are more difficult to beat in the upcoming season.

“[Last season] every game we seemed to be ahead in and doing well in, we couldn’t get over the line and win football matches, which was very frustrating from my point of view,” the Irish striker said. 

O’Donovan added that he has been impressed by Okon’s hands-on approach.

“He’s not standing back as a manager. He’s in amongst it,” O’Donovan said.

“If he’s got a point to prove or something to say he says it there and then and he coaches his point and I think that’s very important.

“It’s very important for players to have a sense of clarity and know what direction that the manager wants to take things.

Paul Okon

“So far, so good. The young lads have really taken on board [Okon’s ideas], as have the senior lads.

“With Tony going and ‘Hutch’ [former assistant coach John Hutchinson] going, it was difficult because they have obviously built up so much trust with the players.

“But it’s a cut-throat business and Paul has taken on the mantle now and is so far is going really well. Everyone’s really excited about the season ahead and the style of football we want to play.”

Last term, Central Coast were the only side in the A-League to have a win percentage of less than 50 after scoring the first goal.

The Mariners’ inability to hold onto a lead again cost them in the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 as they conceded twice from the 86th minute onwards to lose 2-1 at Green Gully.

“It was the nail in Tony’s coffin but it’s a lesson that the lads have to learn,” O’Donovan said.

If Central Coast can tighten up down back, O’Donovan is certain the Mariners’ forwards can score enough goals to win games.

Experienced duo Fabio Ferreira and Nick Montgomery will be crucial to the club's rebuild in 2016/17.

They kick off their season on October 8 away to Perth Glory.