After a heavy loss to 2021 champions Melbourne City, it was starting to feel like the Newcastle Jets’ season was slipping away.
A first half that showed much promise was quickly dispelled by a good finish from the A-League Men’s top marksman Jamie Maclaren.
Newy fullback Dane Ingham gave Florin Berenguer far too much room, turning his back on the in-form Frenchman, and thus allowing him to cross.
Some may point the finger at Taylor Reagan’s marking, but this one’s on the fullback. The fact that it was in first-half injury time just made the goal a little harder to take.
No complaints about the second half. Newcastle were comprehensively outplayed.
Defensively the Novocastrians were pulled apart for Matthew Leckie to score in the 52nd minute. Any chance of a revival was firmly put to bed when Reagan rightly got his marching orders for a second yellow card offence.
Despite this, the Jets can take solace that they only conceded one more goal while down a player. The final result was 3-0.
As well as the send off, Angus Thurgate and Jordan O’Doherty left the field, both seemingly injured. Thurgate had a severe gash to the leg.
So the Jets’ midfield engine room, as well as captain Matt Jurman, were all in doubt for the Wednesday night home fixture against the Western Sydney Wanderers.
With a number of recent former Jets players in the WSW squad, this had the potential to be a fiery encounter. For the most part though, it was a competitive game with no real malice.
WSW’s starting line-up saw Keijiro Ogawa in as a striker instead of Tomer Hemed. I can only think that WSW coach Mark Rudan believed his pace would cause headaches for central defenders Jurman (thankfully back from injury) and Jordan Elsey.
Thurgate, seemingly fully recovered, was straight into the Newcastle line-up, with Spaniard Mario Arques starting at the base of the midfield. Savvas Siatravanis was preferred on the left flank to Valentino Yuel.
Newcastle had more of the first-half possession but never at any point tested Wanderers gloveman Daniel Margush.
There was an abundance of slick build-up play, but the final telling ball never eventuated. There were sticky moments for the Jets defensively and Ogawa spurned a good chance, misfiring his shot wide.
It was former Jet Ramy Najjarine, running onto a James Troisi through ball, who had the visitors’ best opportunity. The often maligned Jack Duncan produced a quality save, splaying his frame, his left hand getting the telling touch.
Duncan again produced a fine save, early in the second half, to turn a Keanu Baccus 20-metre shot around his left-hand side upright.
Minutes later, though, Brazilian Daniel Penha chipped a sumptuous lofted ball for Thurgate.
He ran onto the ball, pivoted and calmly fired home from a tight angle to put Newcastle ahead. The small crowd of 3581 were on their feet, and the Jets’ season is back on track.
The 94th-minute, game-ending whistle from referee Alireza Faghani was a relief for the crowd and noticeably the players too.
Many – including Duncan and club stalwart Jason Hoffman – dropped to the Hunter Stadium turf. This was only the second clean sheet of the season for this Newcastle squad. Satisfying, I’m sure, for Arthur Papas and his coaching staff.
Angus Thurgate was a standout, again. His tireless efforts equalled by his calmness in front of goal. He is a firm fan favourite.
The performance of Mario Arques was an interesting one. This was his first full game and only his second start. The 30-year-old Spaniard brings something a little different to the team: a relative calmness, good passing range and significantly, he is an organiser.
Those around him would have heard his instructions throughout the game. This man may just have the experience to help take the Newcastle Jets on an upward trajectory.
The Jets’ next assignment is against third-placed Macarthur. The Bulls are in fine form, but will be missing defender Aleksandar Susnjar, sent off in their defeat of Perth Glory.
Newcastle are yet to record back-to-back wins this season. Three points on Saturday and they will be pushing hard for the top six.