Ronald Vargas kicked Newcastle to a 2-1 A-League win over Central Coast on Sunday, after the Jets scored twice in 16 minutes to pile further misery on their rivals.
After they trailed 1-0 at the break at Central Coast Stadium, Newcastle dominated the second half before taking the lead in the 82nd minute through Vargas.
Desperately needing to find form themselves in front of goal, Newcastle were in danger of a shock loss before defender Jason Hoffman headed home a Jair corner in the 66th minute.
Hoffman could easily have been the villain just three minutes earlier when he was dispossessed at his own end, allowing Connor Pain to go one-on-one with ‘keeper Glen Moss who batted a shot away.
Vargas then gave the Jets the lead with eight minutes to play, running onto a ball from Kaine Sheppard which bounced up for him in the box before he booted it home.
The win was the Jets’ fourth in a row in the F3 Derby, the longest head-to-head winning streak between the two teams.
It moved them to seventh on the ladder and behind Adelaide United on goal difference, albeit with the Reds still to face Western Sydney at home on Boxing Day.
Jets Striker Roy O’Donovan had promising signs in his return from a 10-match suspension following last year’s grand final, as he got through 84 minutes and forced one save.
“I probably got more out of him than I thought I would,” Jets coach Ernie Merrick said.
“He’s only going to get better now, it’s great to have him back.”
The result condemned the Mariners to their seventh straight loss, as they sit on just two points after nine rounds in the worst ever start to an A-League season.
Fans in their supporter zone of Central Coast Stadium even held up a banner counting the days since their last win – a tally that now stands at 303.
Matt Millar was superb for the hosts at the back, as he and Matt Simon combined for their only goal – and their first half-time lead since round two.
After Millar went down field and executed a one-two with Simon to work his way into the box, he provided a short cross to allow his forward to deliver a deft header into the bottom left corner.
“The critical point was the second goal we didn’t quite get. Then the first goal of theirs from a corner sapped the energy from the stadium,” Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said.
“We were faced with a lack of composure in certain areas and particularly when we could take the sting out of the game. But at the end of the day we lost.”