Newcastle have struck a blow to Western United’s A-League finals hopes with a 1-0 win at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Is there any sweeter feeling for a Novocastrian football fan than a victory against Sydney FC?
Maybe a shellacking of our closest neighbours the Central Coast Mariners.
The Jets’ 2-1 win over the Sky Blues was their first come-from-behind win this season. It was also their first defeat of Sydney, in the NSW capital, in almost eight years.
Rhyan Grant and Alex Baumjohann combined well in the 25th minute. The German midfielder then edged past Angus Thurgate to slip a pass into the path of the fast moving Anthony Caceres to score the opening goal. The influential Grant left the field five minutes later though with a groin issue. He was replaced at right back by the 20-year-old Harry Van Der Saag.
This substitution almost immediately proved costly. Van Der Saag sloppily lost the ball, only for Roy O’Donovan’s effort to be thwarted by the finest of touches from Sydney goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne.
Newcastle were on top despite the scoreline and it certainly felt like a case of when, not if, they would score a goal. Bernie Ibini looked one of the Jets’ most likely, hustling and bustling his way through Sydney’s defensive lines. Surely there’s a solid contract coming soon for the 27-year-old. I have a strong feeling that the A-League is about to see the very best of Ibini in the coming weeks.
Roy O’Donovan’s second-half strike rebounded off the inside of Redmayne’s right-hand upright. The pressure on Sydney was building though and finally the goal drought was broken. The tireless Matty Millar floated in a ball for Nick Fitzgerald to dispatch with a perfectly performed scissor kick, making it 1-1.
Even though Sydney introduced the superstar Milos Ninkovic and speedster Trent Buhagiar, Newcastle continued for the most part to control the game. Carl Robinson emptied his bench and used all five substitutes in the second half.
Joe Ledley, Abdiel Arroyo, Jason Hoffman and Dimi Petratos all played their part. It was Kosta Petratos, though, that delivered the telling, winning blow. The ball was rifled into his feet by Nikolai Topor-Stanley. His first touch was terrible.
Luke Brattan tried to pass his way out of defence – inexplicable in the 90th minute. Belting the ball over the advertising hoardings would have been the better option for table-topping Sydney FC. Petratos reclaimed the ball and Van Der Saag demonstrated his inexperience by allowing the Newcastle midfielder to turn and shoot from the edge of the box.
Redmayne, rooted to the spot, possibly unsighted, didn’t stop the ball. The side netting bulged and Newcastle went on to see out the three minutes of injury time and pick up a valuable three points.
At some stage Sydney FC will win the premiers plate. They do, after all, only require one more point from a possible 12. Their performance was well below par and if they want to have a successful finals campaign then they need to rediscover their pre-COVID form.
Newcastle, on the other hand, have nothing to lose. Their chances of a finals spot are still slim. Results will have to fall their way. Surely some will.
More importantly, they have to keep winning games. It’s a quick turnaround for the Jets for a Friday night fixture against the Coasties. With Carl Robinson in charge, aided by Kenny Miller and Darren Beasley, the Newcastle fans are in a positive mood at the moment. Anything is possible.
One sweet win against Sydney FC on a Tuesday and a shellacking of the Central Coast Mariners on Friday. Well, why not?!