Graham Arnold says Central Coast have all but squandered any hope of retaining the Premiers’ Plate after their disappointing 2-0 loss to Sydney FC.
Needing to win to leapfrog Western Sydney Wanderers back into top spot – for at least 24 hours – the Mariners were outfought at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
The result means the Wanderers have an opportunity to pull five points clear of the Mariners at the top if they can beat Wellington at Parramatta Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Given the Wanderers are on an eight-game winning streak and facing the A-League’s bottom club it would appear that result is a formality, and Arnold believes the minor premiership is gone.
But that didn’t stop the Mariners boss from continuing the mind games with Tony Popovic’s troops following his side’s slip-up at Allianz Stadium.
“They’ll (Wanderers) be excited by our result tonight. There might be a few that don’t sleep too well tonight for them,” Arnold said.
“With that type of crowd behind them, the pressure is definitely on them to win the game.
“The Premiers’ Plate is gone, they’ve got two hands on it now.
“We’ve got to concentrate then on ACL and try and do well in that to get to second round and then worry about the finals series.”
The defeat to Sydney made it the first time in Arnold’s three years in charge the Mariners have suffered back-to-back defeats.
It was an unusually flat performance from the Central Coast and Arnold believes the club’s tough recent schedule – where they played three games in a week in treacherous conditions – could have played a part.
“There’s two sides to fatigue, the physical side and the mental side and the signs say the physical side is ok but then the mental side shows me they could be mentally fatigued,” he said.
“With mental fatigue comes decision making and they are doing things they don’t normally do.
“Turning over possession, taking extra time on the ball.
“It could be a reason for it but they’ve got to be bigger and better than that.”
Asked the biggest disappointment of his side’s performance, Arnold said: “We lost the battle…Sydney wanted it more than us.
“Their home record is strong, and I warned the boys before the game.
“I was disappointed in a lack of leadership from the senior players in those types of games.”
Right-back Pedj Bojic left the field midway through the second half with a back problem and Arnold said he would be assessed on Sunday before deciding if he would make the trip to Japan for the midweek AFC Champions League clash with Kashiwa Reysol.