In sweltering conditions at nib Stadium it was Perth Glory who turned up the heat in the finals race as they downed leaders Central Coast Mariners 1-0 to move to third on the table.
In sweltering conditions at nib Stadium it was Glory who turned up the heat in the finals race as they downed leaders Central Coast Mariners 1-0 to move to third of the table.
Travis Dodd was the goal hero for Ian Ferguson-s side, ensuring that the men in purple will be playing finals football next month by bundling the ball home from close range on 25 minutes after an uncharacteristic error from visitors- goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.
With the mercury still hovering close to 40 degrees at kick-off time, both sides were understandably circumspect in the early exchanges, with clear-cut chances at a premium and the pace of the game fairly sluggish.
Glory, however, still looked the more likely and fired a shot across the Mariners- bows on eight minutes when Josh Risdon pushed up from right-back to set up a shooting opportunity for Billy Mehmet who had retained his place in the starting line-up despite the return to fitness of Shane Smeltz who was named on the bench.
The former St Mirren striker cut across the top of the box and rifled in a fierce low drive which stung the palms of Ryan.
The league leaders did reply with a half-chance of their own shortly afterwards as Bernie Ibini-Isei shot straight at Danny Vukovic from close range after wriggling free in the box, but having survived that scare, Glory responded in the best possible way.
Todd Howarth-s hopeful high cross into the box looked like a gimme for Ryan, but having surprisingly opted against sporting a cap, the highly-rated young ‘keeper seemed to lose the flight of the ball as he looked straight into the glaring sun.
He was ultimately only able to palm it over his head and straight into the path of Travis Dodd who gleefully lashed the ball into the roof of the net from no more than three metres out.
After nudging their way in front, the home side were rarely troubled for the rest of the half, with the Mariners- best moments coming when Josh Rose and Pedj Bojic overlapped to join the attack from full-back.
Rose fired over after one such lung-bursting run down the left on 34 minutes, but Vukovic remained decidedly underworked in contrast to opposite number Ryan who was again called into action just seconds before the half-time whistle sounded.
This time it was Dodd who tried his luck, cutting in from the right and unleashing a well-struck low shot that had Ryan scrambling to his left to keep out of the net.
Perth Glory 1-0 Central Coast Mariners
Glory began the second-half in a similar vein, looking far more threatening than the visitors, although they were forced into a change on 54 minutes when skipper Jacob Burns had to be stretchered off after seeming to cop an elbow across the ribs in a collision with Rose.
On came Smeltz for his first appearance in a month, moving up front alongside Mehmet with McGarry slipping back into a conventional central midfield role as Glory switched to a straight 4-4-2.
Mariners- coach Graham Arnold also went to his bench just short of the hour-mark, although rather curiously the men to make way were Bernie Ibini-Isei and Tomas Rogic who had been the New South Wales side-s biggest attacking threat to that point.
Troy Hearfield and Adam Kwasnik were the players introduced and the two signalled their intent almost immediately as the former climbed well to meet a fine cross from the latter, but steered his header just over Vukovic-s bar.
As they had in the first-half, however, Glory responded to this rare scare by upping the pressure at the other end, with substitute Andrezinho drawing no fewer than three quick-fire saves from Ryan having escaped the attentions of the tiring Bojic down the left.
Desperate to end their recent run of poor form, the Mariners somehow found a second wind as the final whistle approach and managed to set up a nerve-jangling finish for the home fans.
Risdon performed heroics on the goal-line to keep out a firm header from former Glory man Daniel McBreen and Pantelidis was also forced into some desperate last-ditch defending as a series of corners were swung into Glory-s box.
Now fielding no fewer than five men up front, Arnold-s side threw everything at Glory in their desperate search for an equaliser and the hosts- nerves were hardly helped by no fewer than six minutes of stoppage time.
It was backs-to-the-wall stuff, but the home side dug deep and hung on to secure just their third ever victory over the Mariners and climb above Wellington into third place on goal difference.
Hyundai A-League Week 23
Perth Glory:1 (Dodd 25′)
Central Coast Mariners: 0
Perth Glory: 1.Danny Vukovic (GK), 2.Josh Mitchell, 3.Bas Van Den Brink, 4.Billy Mehmet, 5.Steve Pantelidis, 7.Jacob Burns (9. Shane Smeltz 54-), 13.Travis Dodd, 14.Steven McGarry, 17.Todd Howarth (27.Andrezinho 72-), 19. Josh Risdon, 35. Dean Heffernan
Substitutes not used: 20. Neil Young (GK), 26. Brandon O-Neill
Yellow cards: Mitchell 57-, Pantelidis 73-, Andrezinho 95-
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew Ryan (GK), 2. Daniel McBreen, 3. Joshua Rose, 4. Pedj Bojic, 6. Patrick Zwaanswijk, 7. John Hutchinson, 9. Bernie Ibini-Isei (12. Troy Hearfield 61-), 11. Oliver Bozanic, 14. Michael McGlinchey (16. Trent Sainsbury 83-), 17. Tomas Rogic (23. Adam Kwasnik 58-), 18. Alex Wilkinson
Substitutes not used: 20. Justin Pasfield (GK)
Yellow cards: Hutchinson 81-, Rose 94-