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Paul Okon focusing on positives as Blacktown City knocks out CCM

Blacktown City celebrates
The Central Coast Mariners succumbed to NSW NPL leaders Blacktown City on Wednesday night.

Coach Paul Okon is certain Central Coast's shock FFA Cup exit won't derail an otherwise promising A-League preseason.

For the second year running the Mariners' cup campaign ended before it began on Wednesday night, this time at the hands of NSW NPL leaders Blacktown City.

Though the Gosford side did not play poorly, three cheap goals to Blacktown ensured the round-of-32 boilover, and simultaneously snapped their preseason record of zero losses and zero goals conceded in the preceding four games.

It took former A-League striker Joey Gibbs all of two minutes to secure Blacktown's lead via a free kick, before Giorgio Speranza put a second past Mariners goalkeeper Adam Pearce as Tom Glover, the new gloveman on loan from Tottenham, watched from the bench.

Kwabena Appiah netted either side of halftime to restore parity, but Gibbs completed his own brace to seal the 3-2 result, with eight minutes remaining.

Last year, Central Coast's round-of-32 loss to Green Gully directly prompted the sacking of then-coach Tony Walmsley.

Twelve months later, Walmsley's successor was unperturbed by the repeat result.

"We were excellent," a calm Okon said.

"They had a plan to sit back and take whatever chances came their way, from us losing the ball or trying to force things.

"We hadn't conceded up until tonight, that's the real disappointing thing about the three goals we gave away.

"We did enough in the 90 minutes to win the game quite comfortably so that's an area we'll definitely be working on.

"The positive thing for us is there's a few gears we can step it up."

Okon felt the unfamiliar synthetic surface at Lilys Football Centre had levelled the contest, and insisted the Mariners were a class above their NPL vanquishers.

"There's a massive gap, we saw that with the way we controlled the game and moved the ball," he said.

"They struggled to get near us, and their three goals weren't scored because they outplayed us or did something -- they were goals we gave them.

"If we had not played the way we did then maybe there would be some concern, but I don't think we did too much wrong."


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