Joyce: It was a testing game

City Head Coach Warren Joyce was proud of the way his side handled themselves against the Central Coast Mariners, saying they were prepared for everything their opponents had to throw at them.

The 1-0 result saw City record consecutive wins for the first time since Round 4 as Ross McCormack’s first goal from open play secured the result at AAMI Park.

A dominant first half went unrewarded as the Scottish international put his side in the lead after the break but a resolute City kept the free-flowing Mariners at bay, shutting out their opponents for the three points in a performance Joyce labelled as ‘pleasing’.

“I felt the first-half was as good as we’d played and we created three great chances and several opportunities – if it were 3-0 at half-time it’s a completely different game,” he said.

“Credit to their coach (Paul Okon) and [the Mariners] players. They have some good players that can handle a ball, they try and pass it around and they give you problems.

“Second half we had to deal with their problems but then scored a good goal. All in all, it was a testing game against a side that’s in form. I thought we equipped ourselves well and deserved the three points.”

Joyce handed a surprise debut to Y-League talent Nathaniel Atkinson and his impressive performance raised the brows of many at the ground.

“I thought he did well. I thought he took his opportunity well,” he said.

“He’s one that caught my eye as soon as I came to the Club really. He’s been away with the Young Socceroos and missed a lot of training. In pre-season, he worked his socks off, showed a good attitude and showed that he can handle the football as well.

“It’s only one game. It’s a big ask but he’s done really well tonight. It doesn’t surprise me but he’s made the most of his opportunity. Sometimes you don’t know how he’s going to react to a crowd and handle the pressure of this football club to win games. I thought he took it in his stride.

“They’ve got to earn the right to play. We want the kids to come through and we want to see all the work that the academy does. The kids have to grasp the opportunity and make sure they’re ready for it in every way; mentally, physically and tactically.

“If the training is competitive and you’re doing it on a daily basis, you’re more confident that you’ll see it on a Saturday, and that’s what happened with Nathaniel.”

It’s another massive clash for Joyce and City this Friday night as they face league leaders Sydney FC and the Head Coach is looking forward to testing his side against the league’s best.

“You want those challenges,” he said.

“I thought [Sydney] were really impressive against Western Sydney. It’s a challenge we need to prepare for this week. We’ll go head-to-head and have a right go at them next week.”

City face Sydney at Allianz Stadium this Friday night, kick-off 7.50pm before returning for the Christmas Derby at AAMI Park on Saturday 23 December, kick-off 7.50pm.