Second spot not ours yet: Mariners
Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold says second spot isn't stitched up despite dismantling nearest A-League rivals Adelaide United.
The second-placed Mariners moved four points clear of third-placed Adelaide by outclassing the Reds 2-1 at Hindmarsh Stadium on Saturday night.
Arnold said his charges played "champagne football", particularly in a brilliant first half which set up the win with two goals to nothing.
But the Mariners mentor said second spot, and its lucrative reward of an Asian Champions League berth, remained to be settled.
"The players have got the mentality to go forward and go on, we can't take our foot off the pedal because anything can happen with three games to go," Arnold said.
But he believed his squad could challenge runaway league leaders Brisbane Roar.
"I have got a lot of belief in this group of players and they have got a lot of belief in themselves," Arnold said.
"If you see the growth and the development of this team from game one ... we are playing really good football, I'm very, very proud."
The Mariners' standards were so high, they were disappointed at allowing Adelaide a consolation goal in the 91st minute.
"We are actually a little bit upset about conceding the goal because the boys strive to have a clean sheet every week and to concede in the last 30, 45 seconds, they're not happy about that," Arnold said.
"But the mentality of the players, the character, and the way they played football was brilliant."
Attacking midfielder Patricio Perez was the star of the victory over the Reds, scoring the Mariners' first goal and creating the second for Joshua Rose.
Such was their dominance, Arnold said they should have scored more.
"That is one disappointment, we should have got three or four, if we are going to be a team that kills them off," he said.
"(But) in open play, we were creating chances and that is very positive."
The Mariners travel to meet Melbourne Heart on Friday with their coach keen to preserve their sterling away record this season.
"We have only lost twice away from home all year," Arnold said.
"And our motto at the start of the year was to try and play the same away from home as we do from home and never to change our style of football, and it seems to be working."