Captain's knocks, new faces and match-winning braces: The A-League players who were the difference in Round 19
Round 19 was an interesting weekend of football with no draws, 19 goals in six matches, two five-goal games on Sunday and for the…
Forty-two days is a long time for anyone to be away from their workplace, but that’s the COVID world we have been living with.
The Newcastle Jets’ six weeks without a competitive A-League match was always going to bring its headaches. Going from tick over to full throttle was an interesting prospect for Arthur Papas and his squad.
I have to be honest: my work commitments kept me away from both the Adelaide and Brisbane home games. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the full 90 minutes of the Adelaide fixture. 1-0 up and then to concede two goals in the last three minutes of the game hurts!
COVID layoff or an inability to close out a game? Probably a little of both.
The Brisbane game made for easier viewing and the 2-1 win and three points appeared to get the Jets’ season back on track. Angus Thurgate scored his first for the season, after an own goal from Brissy keeper Macklin Freke and a goal from Argentinian Juan Lescano. This game also saw the return of Taylor Regan to the Newcastle squad, a great pick up by Papas who’ll bring solid defensive cover.
The third game after the lengthy layoff was against current champions Melbourne City. I was happy to be back watching a live match (my first for 60 days) enjoying a cold beer with family and friends.
The 28th-minute injury to Newcastle captain Matt Jurman quickly threw a spanner in the works, though. Many, myself included, expected Regan to step onto the field as a ready-made replacement. It was the 19-year-old Riley Warland, however, who was Jurman’s substitute. Wether this was a brave decision by the manager to truly test Warland or a question mark over Regan’s match fitness level is something we will probably never know.
Neither side played that well in the first half. Melbourne City edged it slightly and scored in the 40th minute. Florin Berenguer’s goal-bound shot was credited to Warland as an own goal after he got the last touch.
The second stanza made for exciting viewing with Jamie Maclaren snatching a double and the underperforming Mathew Leckie finishing an easy chance. The introduction of Valentino Yuel kept the City defence honest and it was his guile that brought about a penalty, after a push in the back from Scott Galloway. Beka Mikeltadze converted.
Angus Thurgate scored Newcastle’s second, but Melbourne City were streets ahead on the night. Regan was brought on with 30 minutes to go.
The two players who most fans that night were expecting in the starting line-up for the Melbourne Victory away fixture were Regan and Yuel.
It was always going to be a big ask for Jurman to be ready after hobbling from the field of play.
Thirty-three-year-old Regan would bring experience and a fair amount of starch to Newcastle’s defence. Yuel is a firebrand and after his second half performance, could not be left out of the Newcastle side.
There were though plenty of curious Newcastle squad selections for the Saturday night AAMI Park contest. As predicted Regan and Yuel were starters. The rarely sighted Spaniard Mario Arques, Dane Ingham and Costa Grozos were all in the starting team.
The big surprise for mine was Olivier Boumal taking the pine. He has arguably been the Jets’ most consistent performer. Maybe the coaching staff are resting players considering the logjam of fixtures. Twenty-year-old Lucas Maurgaris was also in the squad for the first time this season.
This was an incident-packed game. The early yellow card to Newy captain Jordan Elsey did not bode well for the game. He was smart enough though to galvanise his focus and stay out of trouble for the next 85 minutes.
Victory captain and one-time Jet, Josh Brillante, did not heed his 28th-minute yellow card. Three minutes into the second half he received his second yellow for a shove on Thurgate. A Newcastle win though was not necessarily on the cards. Macarthur beat the Jets with ten players earlier in the season. Victory were already a goal to the good thanks to a Jake Brimmer strike, too.
The Newcastle side went for the jugular with a spectacular angled lob from Yuel after a delightful long-range pass from Brazilian Daniel Penha. Boumal, on the field for a matter of minutes, won what some claimed was a contentious penalty. There was more than enough forearm and elbow in the back of Boumal from Victory stopper Brendan Hamill for referee Daniel Elder to point to the white dot.
Mikeltadze scored his seventh for the season, and became the first Newcastle player since Joel Griffiths to score in five consecutive games.
Melbourne Victory piled on the pressure in the final minutes of the game. Jack Duncan pulled off a classy save, diving to his right, to stop a certain goal from the head of Hamill. Thankfully the Novocastrians saw off the Victory for a hard fought and much needed win.
Newcastle’s next assignment is another trip to AAMI Park to take on Melbourne City. This should be an intriguing contest not just because they will still be smarting from their 2-1 loss to Adelaide, but it’ll also be a good marker to see how far the squad has come in a relatively short space of time.
Most Jets fans will be expecting a much closer game, I’m sure.