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Apr 7, 2012

Defiant Mariners have faith against Roar

Spurred on by a desire to convert their long-running success into an elusive A-League championship, Central Coast insist their latest Mission Impossible against Brisbane Roar is not a lost cause.

The Mariners return to Bluetongue Stadium for Sunday's major semi-final second leg needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit to avoid a place in next week's sudden-death preliminary final against Perth or Wellington.

History is not on Central Coast's side, having failed to overcome the same margin in last year's corresponding clash and they are yet to beat the Roar in Gosford in 13 attempts.

As Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson admits, the Roar also look to be approaching their best form, but the veteran defender says there are no doubts among the squad that the first spot in the grand final is still within reach.

"Two-nil is a dangerous scoreline and, if we manage to get the first goal, then it's definitely game on," Wilkinson said.

"We need to win by three goals, but the boys are definitely confident.

"We were down 2-0 in the first leg last year and we went up to Suncorp Stadium and were up 2-0 at halftime, so the boys are 100 per cent confident and looking forward to the challenge."

Central Coast conceded two second-half goals in that match last year to lose the tie 4-2 on aggregate, but Wilkinson says important lessons were learned.

Not that the Mariners won't be willing to throw caution to the wind again if need be on Sunday.

"Brisbane are very dangerous and very quick on the counter attack when they win the ball and they punished us last year," Wilkinson said.

"But you can't die wondering, especially in games like this, and you have to give it a go.

"It's great that we finished top two because you do get a second bite at the cherry."

While the Mariners have already claimed silverware in winning the Premiers' Plate, Wilkinson admitted the grand final was the ultimate goal for a club which has made five finals series in seven seasons and already lost two deciders, including last year's heartbreaking last-gasp loss to the Roar.

"Last year hurt a lot but it's a new year this year. It's forgotten about and we're looking to make amends," Wilkinson said.

"We've been a very successful club but one thing we haven't been able to do so far is win a grand final.

"We're definitely due, although that doesn't really mean much. It would be fantastic if we get the chance to be in there again and it would be great to play Brisbane and reverse the result.

"The Premiers' Plate is huge result for us ... but in Australia, you want to win the big one and I guess here that's the grand final."

Wilkinson identified star Brisbane frontman Besart Berisha as his side's biggest danger, saying the Albanian striker was a shining example of how the competition was attracting a higher quality of imports.

Both sides will be backing up from midweek Asian Champions League clashes, with Brisbane having to return from Wednesday's match in South Korea, but both are expected to be virtually full strength.

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