Plenty of spark left in Roar: Mulvey
The Brisbane Roar have started their "road to recovery" and long-time rivals Central Coast remain wary about the threat the defending champions possess in an "unfair" knockout finals format.
The Mariners built up a six-point lead at the top of the A-League ladder with their 2-2 draw on Friday night but the Roar came out of the clash with the biggest smiles.
Capped by two quality Besart Berisha goals, it was a spirited performance, particular in the second half at Suncorp Stadium, which was more like the Roar of old.
"You better believe it - yeah there's plenty of life and spark," coach Mike Mulvey said.
"The situation is like a patient - we've done some diagnosis, we've had a look at what the problem is, we're trying to do operations to fix things and it takes a little bit of time.
"We're on the road to recovery. We're not there yet because when we're there we'll be able to see out a game like that."
While they sit on the edge of the six with eight matches remaining, Brisbane look revitalised with Socceroos defender Jade North and Dutch recruit Stef Nijland making their debuts and young midfielder Luke Brattan stepping up in the absence of Erik Paartalu.
And in another boost, captain Matt Smith has been told by doctors he doesn't require season-ending hip surgery and could be back on the field after another two weeks of rest after missing most of January.
A jet-lagged Nijland, on loan from PSV Eindhoven, impressed in a 30-minute cameo off the bench just 38 hours after flying in to Brisbane.
Mariners coach Graham Arnold, no fan of the new finals series, had no hesitation in branding the Roar a major danger if they make the top six.
"When you have the calibre of footballers like Broich, like Berisha and now Nijland, and Jade North at the back and Mitch Nichols, they're quality footballers who are dangerous to any team on any one day," he said.
"The way the finals series is done this year it's more like a knockout competition and I think it's a bit unfair the way it is ... you don't get any reward for being one or two.
"You can lose your first game and it's over.
"It's a cup competition between six teams and you just have to go for it. You win two games and you're the champions - so-called champions."
But Arnold's biggest concern is the Mariners' injury crisis after Oli Bozanic (dislocated shoulder) became the latest name on the long list, leaving them with just 18 available players.
He admitted the cash-strapped club would need to recruit reinforcements with Adam Kwasnik, James Oates and Troy Hearfield all out for the season and Adriano Pellegrino suspended for six weeks.
"I have to," he said. "I don't know where from because we don't have the money but I think we have to do something."