Last night was Matt Simon’s 200th game for the Mariners.
He’s played plenty of other professional games in both Asia and Australia (for Sydney FC) but the Mariners are his true home.
He first signed at the age of 19 (or so) and took a really long time to get his first goal. But when he finally did get that goal (against the Jets) there was no stopping him.
He’s far and away the Mariners best goal scorer and continues to be the heartbeat of the club. Long may that continue.
Wednesday night’s game against Melbourne City was a massive test to show whether the Mariners’ early season form was genuine, or just a flash in the pan.
It was genuine.
Not too many teams come back from 2 – nil down against City but the Mariners smashed it, with the help of a red card at 2 – 2.
They deserved it though. They didn’t deserve to be 2 – 0 down, just as they didn’t deserve to lose either of their games against the Wanderers or Wellington. But that’s football. It is entirely possible to completely dominate a game but wind up behind on the scoresheet.
Bringing the Mariners back from two down was mainly due to the impact of two players: Matt Simon and Danny De Silva.
Those two combined to create the first goal for Jaden Casella, then Simon scored the penalty to even up, and De Silva blew the crowd away with an incredible effort to win the ball and fire home from 20 metres.
It could easily have been four or five after that but an excellent performance in any case by the Mariners which confirms their status as genuine contenders for the finals, if not the championship.
But back to Matt Simon.
He’s always had his detractors – people who forget that football is actually a contact sport.
It is okay to go in hard at opponents, as long as you do it within the rules, which Simon has (mostly) done.
He is more famous for hassling the crap out of the enemy than he is for scoring goals, but let’s just focus on something really important… football is played 95% without the ball.
You only occasionally have the ball, so the rest of the time you’re trying to get into the best possible shape to help your team. Matt Simon was always amazing at chasing down the opposition defenders to prevent them from playing the ball forward easily.
I remember watching an Asian Champions League game when Simon was playing for Sydney FC. A mate kept commenting on his agricultural approach to the game and I said: “Don’t you see what he’s doing? He’s putting pressure on the defence so they don’t get to play the ball forward without pressure.”
It was 1 – 1 but Sydney needed to win, and with ten to go, Simon was replaced.
“Yes!” said my mate.
“No!” I cried simultaneously. “You watch the enemy get forward easily, now Simon’s no longer shutting them down.”
The final score was 3 – 1 (SFC lost) and my mate – after a period of silence – said: “You’re dead right. I’d never realised how important his work off the ball was.”
“You and ten million other guys,” I replied.
Well, that’s what happened again last night.
Matt Simon was amazing in the 95% that all players have off the ball, and that was key to the Mariners going top again.
Danny De Silva had a pretty good game also, as did quite a few others, but last night was Matt Simon’s night.
Happy 200 Matt and long (within reason) may it continue.
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