Heroic Moments: Champness helps breathe life into Jets’ Hyundai A-League season with stunning cameo
Newcastle Jets’ faint finals hopes were on their way to being extinguished midway through the second half of Friday night’s clash with Melbourne City.
Locked at 1-1 and beginning to tire in their second match in three days, Ernie Merrick’s side were barely holding on until a returning youngster became the hero.
Joey Champness, making just his second appearance of the campaign, came off the bench with 20 minutes remaining to lift the mood around McDonald Jones Stadium and inspire the Jets to a season-saving 3-1 win.
The 21-year-old’s energy and speed rubbed off on his teammates who suddenly found a second wind to go again.
And just five minutes after his introduction, Champness delivered the moment which might just turn Newcastle’s season around.
The New Zealand-born attacker scored the goal to put the Jets in front – thanks to Roy O’Donovan’s assist – before returning the favour to the Irishman four minutes later to ice the game.
“It’s definitely good to be back on the park with the boys, I definitely missed it,” Champness told Fox Sports after the match.
“We felt like we needed a result and felt like we needed to be a bit more offensive and make the most of the spaces when we did press up,” he added when asked about what his role was coming off the bench.
“The game ebbed and flowed but we hung in there and got our goals.”
While Champness’ display offers optimism for the next eight rounds, it’s also a sobering reminder of just what the Jets have missed for the majority of the season.
Champness broke his foot during pre-season training, an injury which has seen him spend most of the campaign in rehab.
How different things may have been had the talented youngster been fit for the majority of the season.
Still, a fresh Champness heading into the final two months of the regular season could help the Jets make-up the six-point gap between themselves and the top six.
Janjetovic silences some of the critics
Football can – at times – be a fickle game, especially for a goalkeeper.
No one knows that more this season than Western Sydney Wanderers keeper Vedran Janjetovic.
The 31-year-old has copped his fair share of criticism this season – even dropped by coach Markus Babbel at one point – for a series of errors during the Wanderers’ inconsistent campaign.
But there’s no doubting the resilience of the former Sydney FC gloveman.
And he showed his undoubted ability in the Wanderers' shock 3-1 win over finals-bound Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Saturday night.
In a match where he was called on to make a number of important saves, there was no better than his 17th-minute stop from Craig Goodwin’s penalty which helped his side record back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
BK lands another blow for the keeper’s union
Still on the topic of redemptive glovemen and Ben Kennedy also had an afternoon to remember as his Central Coast Mariners held on for a 1-1 draw with Sydney FC at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
The often-maligned shot-stopper didn’t put a foot wrong as Mike Mulvey’s men put a dent in the Sky Blues’ Premiership hopes with a spirited and resilient display.
KEY CONTRIBUTORS: Loanees the leaders in Mariners' morale-boosting draw
Kennedy made seven saves for the match, with his best coming in the final minute from Milos Ninkovic to deny the home side victory.
The 31-year-old was only beaten by an Adam Le Fondre penalty as the Mariners snapped a four-game losing streak and gave themselves hope of chasing down Brisbane Roar to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
Neville makes immediate impact
Reliable right-back Scott Neville may not have been able to nail down a regular spot in Tony Popovic’s all-conquering Glory outfit this season but he’s still playing his role in the team’s success.
And it took less than a minute for the 30-year-old to deliver a key cross in Perth’s 4-0 drubbing of Brisbane Roar on Saturday night.
Coming off the bench to replace Ivan Franjic 10 minutes before half-time, Neville had been on the pitch for just 42 seconds when he centred for Andy Keogh to head in and give Glory a 2-0 lead.
It gave the home side breathing space against the stubborn Roar outfit and helped them register a record-equalling 14th win of the campaign and open-up a nine-point lead at the top of the ladder.
No stopping the Brox
Never one to crave the headlines, dependable Melbourne Victory utility Leigh Broxham probably won’t like popping up in this column.
But it’s hard not to marvel at what the 31-year-old does for Kevin Muscat’s men.
This season Broxham has played in a defensive midfield role, on the right side of a midfield diamond and at centre-back as Victory endured a defensive crisis.
Shifted to left-back for Friday night’s clash against Wellington Phoenix at a sold-out Eden Park, ‘DJ Brox’ not only kept the home side’s right-side attack quiet, he also won the penalty to salvage a draw for his team.