Late Simon header gives Sydney Gosford win

A last-gasp Matt Simon header has lifted Sydney FC to a 2-1 win over Central Coast and within one point of a second-successive A-League Premiers' Plate.

Sydney's Matt Simon watches the ball go past Mariners keeper Ben Kennedy for the win.

Sydney's Matt Simon watches the ball go past Mariners keeper Ben Kennedy for the win.

The Mariners did not make life easy for the Sky Blues, who went ahead via Milos Ninkovic's first-half header but were pegged back level by Jake McGing eight minutes from time in Gosford on Saturday.

That was before substitute striker Simon executed a dramatic dive to head home Paulo Retre's deflected cross in the 93rd minute, ensuring Graham Arnold's side go eight points clear at the summit with three rounds remaining.

It was a frenzied end to a largely dreary affair that showed Retre can play right-back and the club cannot afford to lose Ninkovic.

Retre's perfectly weighted cross picked out the Johnny Warren Medallist with precision and exposed the Mariners defence.

Sydney's first victory in five games was far from a vintage display.

"But the most important thing was the win, three points," Arnold said.

"Everyone in the league is trying to stop us from making history, and we're one point away from it."

The ninth-placed Mariners, still reeling from coach Paul Okon's sudden midweek resignation, sat back early and lacked the mettle under caretaker coach Wayne O'Sullivan.

"It was disappointing, particularly after that second half," O'Sullivan said.

"They literally gave everything they had left in the tank and to lose that way is always heartbreaking."

Worryingly for the Mariners, young star Danny De Silva was subbed off at halftime with a hamstring strain O'Sullivan hoped was not serious.

But it was the home side's backline that struggled most when Retre, filling in for the still-absent Michael Zullo, released Bobo and the Brazilian striker forced a fine save from Ben Kennedy.

Fed by Alex Brosque, the 25-year-old then caught the Mariners' defence too high with a cross that picked out Ninkovic for the opener.

After the break Josh Rose executed an excellent piece of defending to stop Sydney doubling their lead.

But the visitors lacked urgency and their best chance to kill the game off ended in an inexplicable miss from Bobo, the golden boot leader lashing wide after Jordy Buijs played him into the box.

The Mariners pressed higher and Andrew Hoole squandered a golden opportunity for a late equaliser before some superb build-up play from Pain and Wout Brama allowed McGing to prod home in the 82nd minute.

But Retre was at the ready for another ball in, and Simon only too willing to oblige.

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