Central Coast Mariners coach Alen Stajcic has not given up hope of making the A-League finals despite winning just four games at the season's halfway point.
The Mariners have continued their frustrating battle with inconsistency this season, exemplified by a 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory in round 14 being followed by a 3-0 loss to Western United last weekend.
Now, sitting second last on the A-League ladder above Newcastle, they face old foes Brisbane Roar in Gosford determined to get their season back on track.
"It's only halfway of the year, we've played 13 of 26 and we have been inconsistent; winning one, losing two," Stajcic said.
"That pattern has gone on for a long time so if we do want to be a finals contender, talk is cheap.
"It's up to us to produce a good performance (on Saturday) and give ourselves every chance to get back in contention."
On Saturday night the Mariners return to Central Coast Stadium, the venue for three of their four victories this season.
A win over Roar would take elevate them to just outside the top six, but overcoming a trend of slow starts is their biggest hurdle to victory.
Against Western United in round 15 the Mariners conceded three goals in the first 21 minutes, putting the result to bed early.
"It's all the signs of a young team or a new team and we're probably a little bit of both to a certain respect," Stajcic said.
"We know that we can move forward and compete with anyone, but the quality is where the games are decided and we need to do better in both penalty boxes."
The two teams met back in November with Brisbane recording a 2-0 win at home.
Just a month ago Roar were bottom of the A-League ladder, but are now just two points out of the top six thanks to a sequence of two wins and two draws.
In form front-man Brad Inman has scored four goals in as many weeks and will be difficult to stop in the box should the Mariners fail to improve their defence.
For Roar coach Robbie Fowler, persevering with a new playing style has paid off and he can see some of the same frustrations with the Mariners.
"We've played them a few times and they're probably similar to us in terms of where they are, they're playing teams, getting lots of chances," he said.
"Obviously they're not taking them, but they'll come into this game thinking they can win and likewise us going there."
STATS THAT MATTER
* Brisbane are undefeated in their last 16 A-League games against Central Coast (W12, D4); their last loss occurred on 12 April 2014.
* There have been 16 goals scored in the last four A-League meetings between the Central Coast and Brisbane at Central Coast Stadium, including eight in their most recent encounter (Roar won, 5-3).
* Brisbane are on the hunt for back-to-back away wins in the A-League for the first time since March 2018 after picking up a 2-1 win against Western Sydney Wanderers FC in their last away fixture (January 1, 2020).