Mrdja gets a double

A brace from striker Nik Mrdja helped ladder leaders Central Coast defeat Brisbane Roar 4-3 in an entertaining clash at Bluetongue stadium on Saturday.

A brace from striker Nik Mrdja helped ladder leaders Central Coast defeat Brisbane Roar 4-3 in an entertaining clash at Bluetongue stadium on Saturday.

Man of the match Mrdja's first half strike helped the home side to a 3-1 lead at the break. His second just after the hour was a memorable free kick that Roar keeper Matt Acton barely saw.

And minutes later the big striker almost got his hat-trick with his looping shot just dribbling the wrong side of the post.

In an open first 45 minutes, the home side had the best early chance with Mrdja finding space in the centre circle releasing pacy Nicholas Fitzgerald who cut inside and his curling shot flew just past Acton's left hand post.

Fitzgerald in the left channel was lively early as the Mariners shaded the Roar in the opening quarter of an hour. Apart from two loose clearances from keeper Andrew Redmayne, the Coast weren't greatly troubled by the visitor.

It was Mariner Matt Crowell who cracked the contest open on 23 minutes. Following a corner only partially cleared by the Roar, the Welshman picked up the ball 25m out and smashed it cleanly for the opening goal.

Ten minutes later and a cool finish from Luke Bratten had the visitors back on level terms. But with Bratten subbed off immediately following his goal, poor defensive work from the Roar allowed Mrdja to slip in and slot home under Acton to make it 2-1 to the Coast on 38 minutes.

The home side extended their lead to 3-1 right on the break after good lead up work this time from Mrdja allowed in Brady Smith who finished with aplomb inside the box.

The Roar began the second half in fine style with a flowing move ending with defender Andy Packer hitting the bar with a stinging distance shot. And after seven minutes they'd made it 3-2 with Young Socceroo Isaka Cernak slipping into the box before setting up Ken Dougall to slide home.

However, the home side hit back in spectacular fashion on 65 minutes with Mrdja's second of the day - a smashing free kick from 25m out which bust the Roar net to make it 4-2.

Stefan Vrbesic's strike right on the final whistle dragged the score back to 4-3 but it was too little too late for a plucky Roar in this seven goal spectacular.

Central Coast Mariners 4 (Crowell 23, Mrdja 38, 65, Smith 45+1)

Brisbane Roar 3 (Bratten 34, Dougall 52, Vrbesic 90+1)