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Australian Football: Mariners and Nix battle to stay in the six

Matchday 18 gets underway on Friday night when second-placed Central Coast Mariners take on Wellington Phoenix, who sit fifth on the ladder.

Take out runaway leaders Melbourne City and it is tighter than ever at the top of the A-League with just three points separating the Mariners and the Newcastle Jets who are down in seventh.

It makes for an exciting run-in to the season and no-one is guaranteed a place in the top six that means finals football. Both the Mariners and Phoenix are hot fancies to make the top six, priced at 1/7 and 4/5 respectively.

However nothing can be taken for granted and every game between now and the end of the regular season is huge. None more so than this one. Finishing in the top two is also huge when it comes to finals football and the Mariners will be determined to stay there.

The Nix are still in with a chance of getting there themselves and could go level on points with the Mariners if they pick up a win at Central Coast Stadium.

It is an exciting game to kick-off the round and there is also the potential for it to be high-scoring. With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at both camps with kick-off fast approaching.

What:Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix
Where:Central Coast Stadium
When:19:45 (AEST) Friday 24th February 2023
How to watch:Paramount+
Odds:Mariners 10/11, Draw 3/1, Phoenix 13/5

Mariners up for the fight

The Mariners showed their grit and fighting spirit last weekend when they came from behind to draw 2-2 away at Perth Glory. It could turn out to be a crucial point come the end of the season as they look to secure second spot on the A-League ladder but they need to back it up with three points on home soil against the Nix.

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Scoring goals has not been an issue for Central Coast this season as they have fired home 35 in total to put them second behind Melbourne City in the goalscoring charts.

Wellington Phoenix also know where the back of the net is having scored 29 goals this season and we could be in for a high-scoring affair on Friday. Over 2.5 goals in the game can be backed at 8/15. Under is 6/4.

Mariners striker Jason Cummings remains bang in form having scored five goals in the last four games and he will be the main threat for the Mariners once again.

The Socceroos ace, who has 12 goals in total this season, can be backed at 5/6 to score at any point during the game and 7/2 to grab the opener. The Mariners will be missing Bradley Tapp through injury, while Nectarios Triantis is away on international duty. But apart from that coach Nick Montgomery has a strong squad to choose from.

Phoenix look to kick on

Wellington Phoenix battled back from two straight defeats to whip Western United 3-0 away from home in Matchday 17 and they need another solid result on their travels this week. Ufuk Talay’s men flew up the table with three wins on the bounce, only to pick up just one point from the three games after that.

It stopped them in their tracks but they returned to winning ways against Western and will be hoping to go on another winning run. Oskar Zawada scored from the penalty spot against Western to take his tally for the season to nine goals.

He will be out to hit double figures against the Mariners and is priced at 15/8 to score at any point during the game. Talay has no fresh injury worries to concern him but he will be without the suspended Callan Elliot for the trip.

The Nix have back-to-back home games coming up after this game and they would love to go into them on the back of another good result away from home.

They have won three out of the last five away games though so that should give them plenty of confidence here. Wellington have drawn six games this season and three of them have finished 2-2, including the game against the Mariners earlier in the season.

Another 2-2 draw on Friday night can be backed at 11/1. The way these two sides can ship goals, such a scoreline is not out of the question. They are one of three clubs on 24 points so every point is huge as they look to cement their place in the top six.

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