It is only competitive match number one of the new season for Central Coast Mariners but Alen Stajcic insists the stakes could not be higher.
Stajcic, 45, has urged his new-look Mariners side to prepare for Wednesday night’s FFA Cup Round of 32 clash with Maitland as if it was the Final itself.
The former Westfied Matildas boss believes such a mentality is necessary if the Gosford club are to achieve their mission of moving out of the Hyundai A-League basement this season.
“We’ve made it a major talking point of our team that we’re going to approach every friendly, FFA Cup and A-League game in the same manner,” Stajcic said.
“This game against Maitland is no different. We’ll be approaching it as if it’s a Final for us.”
Central Coast’s desire to start the new season on a winning note is as strong as their desperation to avoid another early exit in the FFA Cup.
The Mariners have been eliminated at the Round of 32 stage for the past four editions, and two of those exits were at the hands of member federation opposition – a 2-1 loss to Victorian side Green Gully in 2016, and a 3-2 defeat to NPL NSW powerhouse Blacktown City in 2017.
And Maitland – who boast four-time Australian international Matthew Thompson, and former Hyundai A-League talents Nick Cowburn, Matthew Trott and Joel Wood within their ranks - are bound to be awkward customers.
The Northern NSW outfit has consistently punched above their weight in the league following their promotion to the top flight in 2014 and are currently locked in a four-horse race for the NNSW Premiership.
“I’m sure they’ll be up for it,” added Stajcic.
“It’s a massive game for their club and for the local area – and that’s the beauty of the FFA Cup.”