FOOTBALL: Central Coast Mariners coach Paul Okon is expecting a fired-up Roar side in Gosford today after Brisbane's horror display in the AFC Champions League.
The Roar suffered a shock mid-week loss to lowly Filipino outfit Ceres-Negros and were further embarrassed when several shirt numbers peeled off the backs of players' jerseys. The debacle forced the club into making a public apology to their fans.
While Okon says being knocked out of the continental competition may serve as added motivation for Brisbane, he knows his Central Coast team are well prepared for it.
"The fact that they got knocked out last week might even work in their favour, it may motivate them more, but we can control what we've done this week and the way we've prepared,” Okon said.
"All season, whenever we've prepared for an opponent, we do our analysis and we look at their recent performances. We're quite confident we know how the Roar will set up against us, what they'll try do when they have the ball and when they don't have the ball.”
A-league boss Greg O'Rourke had said the Roar have tarnished the brand of Australian club football.
"The Roar have not only damaged their own brand, but also the brand of the A-League,” O'Rourke said.
"The light has shone on Brisbane Roar and they have to make the decision on whether they ignore the light or deal with it.”
The Mariners will take plenty out of their last performance against Sydney FC, when they held the A-League leaders to a draw away from home.
It was the type of performance Okon hopes to see more of from his team.
"Last week the performance was excellent and the big challenge is for us to repeat that, to have the same energy and intensity that we showed,” he said. "We're at home, so we expect to perform again.”
The Mariners have started 2018 with three draws and a loss. It hasn't been an easy period for them, made worse by the sudden departure of their Spanish striker Asdrubal, who was allowed to return home for family reasons.
It means Okon is on the hunt for a new striker with just days to go before the transfer window closes.
Blake Powell is expected to play up front for the Mariners against Brisbane, while Okon has a fully fit squad available to him, with the exception of Connor Pain, who he is hopeful will return in the next two weeks after undergoing rehab for a hamstring injury.
We knew January was going to be tough for us and we'd hoped we would have more points to show for it, but we're confident that with what's coming up there are points on offer for us,” Okon said. "It's up to us to make sure we stay in the game and the key moments we're better in.
"We know we have got goals in us, for us it's trying to actually do that,” Okon said.
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