A first half goal from Dane Ingham proved the difference at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday night, as the Mariners fell to a 1-0 defeat against Perth in their first game of the Hyundai A-League restart.
Perth took the lead through Ingham’s 32nd minute curler as they enjoyed the ascendancy in the first half, but the Mariners did well to get back on top in the second half as they pushed for an equaliser.
Jacob Melling and Dylan Fox both started in a new look side, with a dangerous bench at Alen Stajcic’s disposal and the Mariners wore black armbands following the death of Andre Gumprecht’s wife, Carina.
Jacob Melling fired wide and Bruno Fornaroli looked to cause trouble but neither side troubled their opponent’s goalkeeper until Ingam’s goal just after the half hour mark.
Neil Kilkenny played a slide rule ball through to Ingham as he came in from the wing, and the 21-year old wasted no time taking a touch and firing across Mark Birighitti to give Perth the lead.
Ivan Franjic and then Kristian Popovic were both carded for cynical fouls as the game approached half time, but the scoreboard was not troubled further as the teams went into the changerooms.
An early corner for the Mariners proved dangerous but the ball didn’t sit right for Kye Rowles, before Birighitti and then Liam Reddy were forced into saves at either end.
Dylan Ruiz-Diaz and Josh Nisbet were introduced by Stajcic after 56 minutes for Melling and Daniel DeSilva, and Ruiz-Diaz’s curling cross minutes later was just out of reach of Jordan Murray.
With 25 minutes left to play Murray leapt into the air to contest an aerial ball with Alex Grant and landed heavily after the collision, laying on the ground before being stretchered from the field.
Staj confirmed post-match a dislocated shoulder for the forward, and he was replaced in a double substation as Matt Simon and Milan Duric replaced him and Jack Clisby.
The Mariners pushed through the final 20 minutes with a number of chances created and Alou Kuol created headaches for Perth after his introduction, but they couldn’t break down a Perth side who were content to resolutely defend through the final stanza.
Stajic and the team will now turn attentions to a big weekend coming up, with Friday’s F3 Derby followed quickly by a clash with Western Sydney Wanderers on the Monday.