THE result didn’t go Western NSW Mariners FC’s way in their 1-0 trial loss to Wagga City on Sunday but coach Mark Rooke is pleased with the way his team is coming together.
A defensive lapse was all that separated the two clubs at Young in what was otherwise an even contest.
Rooke, who has come on board as the Mariners mentor for 2019, is making defence a priority in the build up towards the Football NSW Premier Leagues 3 season.
Outside of the goal Rooke said the team did a sound job of executing their strategies from training.
“While the scoreline was disappointing there were some patches that were pleasing. Defensively, overall, I thought we were very good,” he said.
“The goal came from a goalkeeper misjudgement but that’s part and parcel for this time of the season and we were also changing players around a lot so overall it’s quite pleasing.
“We had a goal disallowed in the second half as well. We had plenty of chances but it was one of those games where we could have scored an absolute truckload but we didn’t.
“It was good minutes in the legs for the boys.”
Statistics back up Rooke’s plea for defensive strength.
On average, in 2018, Mariners let in three goals for every one they scored and finished with 93 goals against them in NPL3.
That was the second most goals allowed by any team behind relegated Fraser Park FC.
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Rooke doesn’t want a repeat of those numbers.
“Defensively we needed to improve remarkably. It’s one of those things over the past few season that has cost us games. We’ve managed to score goals but managed to play ourselves out of games before we’ve even been in them,” he said.
“Even before Christmas our first sessions were all about defensive structure, and what we wanted to do defensively. We want to play a higher pressure game, which is something a bit different, and the boys are still getting used to that.
“The boys in the front third have to do a little more defensive duties, with us pressing higher up the pitch and trying to win the ball in better areas.
“They’ve all responded to training really well. They’ve taken everything on board. They’re keen to improve and do better than they have in previous years.”
Mariners have welcomed back several players this year while still retaining plenty of talent from last season’s squad.
“We have Jeremy Judge and Jack Blatch back. Josh Ward didn’t play much last year but he’s also back for us,” Rooke said.
“Predominately, everyone else is back from previous seasons which is good. Once everything was put in place I think they were glad to be back.”