Young gun Anthony Caceres has performed so well in the Central Coast’s last two games he’s forcing skipper John Hutchinson to fight for his starting spot.

He’s rarely featured in Central Coast’s starting 11 but back-to-back stellar performances from rookie playmaker Anthony Caceres now have skipper John Hutchinson fighting for his spot.

The 21-year-old Caceres has spent much of the A-League season in the shadow of creative midfielders Michael McGlinchey and Marcos Flores, but with both now gone – McGlinchey to Japan and Flores to season-ending injury – he is getting his chance to shine.

He had just his second start of the season last week in the Mariners’ 1-0 win over Sydney FC, replacing the suspended Hutchinson.

So strong was his performance he retained his spot for Saturday’s derby against Newcastle with coach Phil Moss leaving the returning captain on the bench.

And Caceres didn’t disappoint, breaking the deadlock in the 3-0 victory over the Jets in sensational style with a 25-metre rocket in the 13th minute, while remaining a constant presence in the forward pack.

“I thought he had a steady game last week and did quite well,” Moss said.

“It was a big decision for me this week to leave Hutch on the bench but I just thought the performance last week as a team and also from Caceres individually was good enough to warrant leaving him in the team.

“Hutch took it so well, like the true champion he is, and he was the first one to congratulate Anthony when he was announced in the team and said `go out there and take the bull by the horns’ and that gave him a lot of confidence hearing that from the captain.”

It was the first time this season the Mariners fielded the same starting 11 two weeks in a row and the move payed off with the defending champions recording back-to-back wins for the first time this campaign.

With the Mariners to face front-runners Brisbane Roar away next Sunday Moss may not want to tinker with his winning line-up.

But while full of praise for the youngster, Moss said Caceres, who joined the Mariners’ youth squad in 2012 and made his first-grade debut against the Jets in January last year, still needs time to develop.

“Now I really hope his career starts to take off but he doesn’t need big raps at the moment.

“He’s just finding his feet as a first grader and professional footballer and we just need to just go steady with him,” Moss said.

“But he’s got all the attributes to be a very good player.”