Veteran striker Matt Simon has continued his purple patch and debutant Matt Hatch added to the Central Coast's fairytale start to the A-League season when they scored in a 2-0 win over Macarthur in a top-of-the-table clash in Gosford.
Simon's ninth-minute goal was his fifth in his past six matches and Hatch scored with his first touch as a professional in the 82nd minute after coming on moments earlier.
Local lad Hatch was previously a ball boy for the Mariners, whose win on Monday night lifted them seven points clear of second-paced Macarthur.
"To finish with non-preferred foot, his first touch in A-League, it's obviously a magical moment for him and just a great moment for our whole club," Mariners coach Alen Stajcic said.
The Mariners have won eight games, as many as in their past two seasons combined, but Stajcic said making the finals wasn't a lay down misere and they probably needed to get another 16 points.
The visitors enjoyed 65 per cent of possession and had one more shot but some wasteful finishing and the Mariners' resolute defence kept the Bulls scoreless for the first time their past six matches.
"We knew that they would have large chunks of possession throughout the game, we really tried to nullify the effective possession for them which I think we did a tremendous job with," Stajcic said.
"We looked dangerous in our controlled build-up quite a number of times, we were dangerous on set pieces, we were dangerous from transition quite a number of times.
"I'm just really pleased for the boys.The amount of effort and heart we put into that performance I thought we really deserved the win."
Macarthur's ex-Mariner Tommy Oar had a shot blocked by goalkeeper Mark Birighitti before the home team opened the scoring.
Costa Rican international Marco Urena set up Simon, whose shot deflected off James Meredith and past goalkeeper Adam Federici.
Simon almost added a second on the hour when he hit the post, just before being substituted.
The Mariners played some delightful football In the first 20 minutes but in the latter part of the first half kept turning the ball over.
In the first half, Macarthur's top scorer Matt Derbyshire had one shot blocked and put a header from a corner just over the bar.
The Mariners survived an almighty scramble near their goal just after halftime.
And Hatch secured the win when he swept a shot past Federici from a pass from fellow substitute Alou Kuol.
"I thought we created enough to get back in the game," Macarthur coach Ante Milicic said.
"But In the end once the second one went in, which was a poor one to concede, the game was over."
Macarthur are away to Melbourne City on Friday with the Mariners hosting Perth on Sunday.
Australian Associated Press