United shows grit in fightback
WITH 10 minutes remaining, Gold Coast United's unbeaten pre-season record looked in trouble, down 2-0 to the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night.
However a 10-man United displayed true grit and determination in front of an appreciative Skilled Park faithful, bagging their first with nine remaining before salvaging a critical draw in the dying seconds.
It was Miron Bleiberg's big guns who rose to the challenge of ending pre-season preparations on a positive note, and none more so than inspirational skipper Jason Culina.
The talented Socceroo first fired a 20-metre free-kick inches wide of the post midway through the first half, before having a hand in each of United's comeback goals.
A superb 50-metre crossfield ball from Culina found Adam Traore on the left touchline, and the Ivory Coast under-23 international beat his marker fire one home and halve the deficit with nine minutes remaining.
With the clock ticking down, United made the most of its final chance of the match, when Culina's pin-point free-kick was met by Shane Smeltz who made no mistake with his powerful header.
The Gold Coast's starting side virtually picked itself after Bleiberg was stripped of seven of his first team roster, with Matt Osman, Adam Griffiths, Joel Porter, Daniel Piorkowski and Tahj Minniecon all rested after showing signs of illness earlier in the week.
James Brown and Brazilian midfielder, Jefferson, were already ruled out through injury, leaving Bleiberg with no option but to draft in recruits from the club's newly assembled youth squad.
United had the better of the opening exchanges, but after a goal-less first half a double blow at the start of the second soon had United on the back foot.
When Michael Thwaite was red-carded for pulling back his opponent on the edge of the penalty area, the resulting free-kick was smashed past Jess Vanstrattan by Pedj Bojic to put the Mariners in front.
The visitors capitalised on their one-man advantage within minutes and doubled their lead when Adam Kwasnik tapped home from close range in the 53rd minute.