Expectations had risen in the Hunter Valley after Newcastle’s emphatic win against the Wellington Phoenix.
An away day with your football team will always produce a few eventful moments, both on and off the field of play.
A combination of COVID restrictions and work commitments hadn’t allowed me to pay a visit to the new Parramatta Stadium, Bankwest.
With Newcastle’s Round 2 fixture firmly locked in, myself and my eldest son made the trip south with a pair of discounted tickets (membership is a wonderful thing) locked into our phones.
The trip down was largely uneventful. The NorthConnex tunnel was a new experience. We wondered if the staggered blue lighting was a deliberate choice to help keep drivers calm in times of high traffic.
Thankfully this was a sleepy Sunday and traffic was at a minimum. Before long we were parking at the Justice Precinct, which incidentally turned out to be free.
Not sure if this was a Western Sydney Wanderers game-day undertaking or not. If it was, well done and thank you very much.
A cold beer inside the magnificent Parramatta Leagues Club was a pre-game priority. Team selections arrived just before departing and Newcastle’s only change from last week’s starting line-up was Valentino Yuel in for Greek import Savvas Siatravanis.
Our entry into Bankwest was seamless. Security and game-day staff were friendly and helpful.
Wow, what a great looking stadium too. A proper football stadium. Similar in some ways to Melbourne’s rectangular stadium, AAMI Park.
There was a healthy travelling contingent down from the Hunter and five minutes from kick off a questioning chant went up “Where’s your famous RBB?”
Someone was quick to shout “Don’t worry, there’s still time!”
Right on cue the opposite end of the ground swelled in numbers. The RBB were loud and proud all game, so they didn’t disappoint.
The Newcastle Jets had the better of the first half and created chance after chance. Wide players Yuel and Cameroonian Olivier Boumal were causing problems for the Wanderers’ defensive line and Angus Thurgate was in the thick of the action.
The Wanderers’ defence finally cracked when Yuel found Boumal, who was brought down in the box by the outstretched lunging leg of former Socceroo Rhys Williams.
Newcastle’s Georgian striker Beka Mikeltadze dispatched the resulting penalty with true class.
A small but enthusiastic Poznan ensued and of course we joined in. All part of the away day experience.
The Novocastrians continued to press high, play quick passes and create chances. Kosta Grozos possible went the closest to scoring with a half volley.
It was former Jet Bernie Ibini who pulled a goal back for the Wanderers with a ferocious shot after and awkward ball was only patrially knocked away by Newcastle’s captain Matt Jurman.
Ibini had earlier forced a top-drawer save from Jack Duncan, but this time the Jets’ keeper stood no chance.
At halftime a young Wanderers fan won the crossbar challenge. I would have thought his efforts would have been worth more than the $100 voucher he received from one of the club’s main sponsors.
The second half produced an early moment which I’m sure Newcastle’s 21-year-old Grozos would like to forget. He tried to take on Tomer Hemed, with no defensive cover behind him.
The Israeli international Hemed did not waste the opportunity and scorched the ball past Jack Duncan.
This should be a mistake that Grozos will learn from, but Jordan O’Doherty may well get a starting berth in this Newcastle side sooner rather than later.
Three minutes later, Ramy Najjarine almost extended the Wanderers’ lead with a chip over Duncan. Jordan Elsey rescued the situation, clearing the ball just in front of the goal mouth.
Almost immediately, the Jets reacted. Yuel jinked his way past Thomas Aqualina and his pass was fired home by Boumal for his first goal as a Newcastle Jet.
The travelling Jets fans were ecstatic and a young guy a row in front of me removed his shirt and continued the celebration, twirling it over his head.
Thirty seconds later he received his own personal yellow card of sorts when his mate shouted, “My sister’s just sent a text. She saw you on TV with your shirt off and said put it back on!” He laughed and duly obliged.
In the 69th minute, substitute Jack Rodwell had arguably the best chance to clinch the game for the Wanderers after evading the Jets’ central defence. Duncan though spread himself well to save the shot and keep Newcastle in the contest.
Rodwell turned from almost hero to villain with a savage hit on Thurgate. He may well consider himself lucky to have only seen a yellow and not a red card.
Five minutes from time, Newcastle may well have sealed the encounter through substitute Dylan Murnane.
The left back should have backed his right foot and fired for goal or squared the ball for the seemingly open Eli Babalj. In the end his pass came to nought.
2-2 was a result that would have made most Jets fans reasonably happy. Coach Arthur Papas is looking to build a winning culture and a fighting spirit.
The fighting spirit is already evident and the general feeling among the travelling fans is a win is not far away.
The official crowd was 8003, but the atmosphere and the away day experience was refreshing.
For those fans that experienced the technical issues with Paramount, get to the game. You won’t regret it.