Central Coast coach Paul Okon has called on the Mariners to show some early defensive resilience to avoid rolling the dice and getting involved in A-League shootouts.
The Mariners last week celebrated their first clean sheet in 36 games when they held out Perth Glory 2-0 in Gosford.
Having witnessed his team finally hold the opposition scoreless, Okon wants them to display more of that defensive miserliness in Saturday's NSW home derby against Western Sydney Wanderers.
"We've got to be resilient enough, certainly earlier on in the game, to stop teams from scoring," Okon said.
"If we can do that then we're a real threat against any side and if we can't, we're always going to have to roll the dice and cross our fingers whether or not we're going to score more goals than the opposition."
Despite the desire to maintain a strong defensive presence, Okon said the Mariners were trying to be more offensive in their outlook.
Central Coast welcome back Liam Rose from suspension, but Okon said another midfielder, Mickael Tavares, remained in doubt due to an ongoing ankle injury.
He thought Brendon Santalab would get the nod as the Wanderers' main striker on Saturday ahead of Kerem Bulut, as he scored against the Mariners in the 1-1 draw at Spotless Stadium in late October.
Okon is paying no heed to the Wanderers' ladder position, with the Sydney club starting the round in seventh, one spot below his team.
"They are a good side regardless of where they sit on the ladder," Okon said.
"They've got some very good players, their front line is exciting.
"It's a big test, it's a big opportunity to see where we're at.
"Hopefully we live up to the expectations.
"We are slowly starting to rebuild.
"I think we've put that little bit of pressure on ourselves to perform at a certain level and hopefully that will be the same tomorrow evening."
Okon is a former national teammate of Wanderers coach Tony Popopvic and said they saw each other last week and also exchanged texts.
"Poppa is not only a colleague, he's a good mate. But he's a very fierce competitor and no doubt he'll want to win the game and it will be a handshake and then each to their own," Okon said.
STATS THAT MATTER:
- Western Sydney Wanderers are undefeated in their past four games against Central Coast Mariners.
- Central Coast Mariners are aiming for their first three-match A-League unbeaten streak since January 2015.
- The Wanderers have won four of their past five away games within New South Wales.