THE Luke Wilkshire coaching era might have started with a loss, but the Wollongong Wolves, featuring Milton-Ulladulla product Chris Price, were far from disgraced in an absorbing 3-1 loss to the Central Coast Mariners at WIN Stadium.
With sprint sensation Usain Bolt sitting in the stands, a crowd of 2691 still braved a chilled night at WIN Stadium on Friday night.
A superb solo goal from Darcy Madden had the Wolves in front in the first half before the Mariners flexed their muscles with goals from Matthew McGlinchey, Connor Pain and Matt Simon completing the pre-season win.
The Mariners led 2-1 at the break before sealing the result midway through the second stanza.
Despite fielding a starting eleven featuring four new faces, Wollongong hit the front when Madden weaved his way past two defenders and slotted past Ben Kennedy in the 24th minute.
It could have been 2-0 just two minutes later as triallist Okada Takeru, of Corrimal Rangers, fired his effort from 20 yards into the post.
Matthew McGlinchey levelled the scores in the 40th minute when he hammered one into the top corner before Connor Pain provided Mariners with a 2-1 lead at the break.
Pain’s goal came just moments after Wollongong’s Thomas James rattled the woodwork.
The Coast had to wait until the 69th minute to get their third after Russell Vale junior Jordan Murray found Matt Simon in the box.
The evergreen striker unsurprisingly hit the target.
The Mariners dominated the final 25 minutes but couldn’t find a fourth in the dying stages.