Central Coast will enter the ALM finals on a high after ending their regular season with a 2-0 victory over Newcastle, their fifth straight…
Expectations had risen in the Hunter Valley after Newcastle’s emphatic win against the Wellington Phoenix.
Their Round 5 encounter was a match up between themselves, the best attacking side, against the best defensive side, the Macarthur Bulls.
In the early minutes of the game, the Jets were on top. Disappointingly though, Dylan Murnane was injured in the 15th minute and had to be replaced by Kiwi Dane Ingham.
A decisive angled ball from Brazilian import Daniel Penha to the fleet-footed Valentino Yuel brought about the first talking point of the game. Macarthur goalkeeper Filip Kurto rushed from his box to clear the ball, but instead connected with Yuel’s ankle. Olivier Boumal completed the move, but no goal was awarded, as referee Alex King had already blown his whistle for the foul play.
King obviously saw this foul correctly as denying Yuel a goal-scoring opportunity and had no option but to send Kurto off. Had he played advantage, Newcastle would have had a goal but the red card could only be a yellow.
Kurto was replaced by Nick Suman, with Tommy Oar sacrificed to complete the substitution. Macarthur’s defensive structure got even tighter with a 4-4-1 and at times a 4-5-0 being employed.
The goal drought was finally broken in the 35th minute, as James Meredith clumsily fouled Beka Mikeltadze on the edge of the area.
Newcastle’s Georgian striker fired home the awarded free kick, despite Suman getting a glove to it.
The Jets went into the break as deserved leaders and at the start of the second half could have been two up, although Yuel’s run and quick cross was not quite accurate enough for the Cameroonian Boumal.
Could Boumal have been quicker? Could he have slid in to connect with the ball? Would Macarthur have recovered after a second goal?
In the end, the Bulls had the answers and took their chances, as Noone’s cross in the 47th minute was spectacularly volleyed home by Daniel De Silva. The Jets’ defence, but especially Ingham, were too slow to react.
In the 59th minute Newcastle had their best chance of the second stanza, with Penha again instrumental with a through ball for Ingham whose cut back was struck by Boumal. Suman spread himself and blocked the shot well.
In the 84th minute Sam Silvera, a 66th minute substitute for Boumal, sloppily gave away a free kick in Newcastle’s defensive third. De Silva’s swinging free kick was strongly headed home by Meredith.
It was 2-1 to the ten-man Bulls. A great result.
Does Newcastle have Count Dracula Syndrome? They just don’t like crosses. Is it inexperience or a lack of defensive organisation?
On the Bulls’ goal-scoring free kick, Mohammed Al-Taay was marking James Meredith – not a good match up, size-wise – while 19-year-old Riley Warland, playing as a centre back, and centre forward Mikeltadze were both in the Newcastle wall. Surely a taller player picking up Meredith was a better option? Elsey and Thurgate were badly missed (damned COVID!), seeing Newcastle’s depth tested and found wanting.
Take nothing away, though, from a well-organised Macarthur, who did everything possible to win. They defended stoically, took their chances and even spread their fouls among players and throughout the game. A professional performance.
Arthur Papas’ after-match press talk was again insightful, as he took responsibility for the result, adding later though that, “We lost, not because of the disruptions, we lost because we didn’t concentrate enough, we weren’t ruthless enough to finish the game at 1-0.”
A week can be a long time in football. A great performance, scoreline and result last week, while this week saw defensive frailty and plenty of ifs, buts and maybes.
Boxing Day and a home game for Newcastle against a Wanderers team, and definitely a manager in Carl Robinson, very much under pressure.