They won’t play in the finals but Newcastle Jets have ended their season with a bang, defeating high-flying Wellington Phoenix 3-0 on Thursday night.
In an entertaining clash at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Nick Fitzgerald scored in the final minute of the first-half before Bernie Ibini and Jason Hoffman struck after the break to ice a superb win.
It was a gritty performance from Carl Robinson’s side, who had to withstand some concerted pressure at periods but took their chances at just the right time.
Teenage keeper Noah James made his Hyundai A-League debut for the Jets and made a couple of vital saves to ensure the Hunter club kept a third straight clean sheet.
The Jets ended the campaign as one of the form sides, picking up 24 points from their last 11 games to finish in eighth spot after struggling near the foot of the ladder mid-way through the season.
Wellington didn’t play as bad as the scoreline suggests but the defeat means they will finish the regular season in third spot.
Ufuk Talay will need to restore his side’s confidence quickly ahead of their Elimination Final next weekend.
Debutant keeper James uses his head
Phoenix dominated the early exchanges and created a couple of excellent chances, with the best of those coming on 13 minutes.
An in-swinging corner made its way to David Ball at the far post, with the Englishman heading it back across to Matti Steinmann.
The German got his head to the ball at close range which was going in, but teen gloveman Noah James managed to keep it out with his head. Amazing stuff!
Jets strike on cusp of the break
Newcastle were second best for much of the half but grew into the contest the longer it went on, and got their reward in the final minute before the break.
Some neat build-up saw Angus Thurgate drive at the heart of the Phoenix defence before slipping the ball to Fitzgerald just inside the box.
The Jets attacker took his shot first time, with the ball deflecting off Luke DeVere and slipping past Stefan Marinovic and into the back of the net.
Is that Marinovic or Superman?
The goal before the break seemed to inspire the Jets who almost doubled their lead three minutes after the resumption.
Dimitri Petratos picked up possession 25 yards from goal and dribbled around a couple of Phoenix defenders before unleashing a powerful left-foot strike.
Petratos’ shot took a slight deflection and seemed destined for the back of the net only for Stefan Marinovic to tip it around the post at full-stretch. A jaw-dropping save!
Post denies Jets classic counter-attack goal
Phoenix began to camp in the Jets’ half but were almost hit with a sucker punch just after the hour mark.
A lightning counter attack saw Fitzgerald charge into Wellington’s half before laying the ball off for the overlapping Steven Ugarkovic on the right.
The midfielder’s square pass was perfect for Thurgate to side-foot at goal first-time but his effort slammed onto the post before the Phoenix were able to clear.
Ibini nets his first Jets goal
Just 10 minutes after coming off the bench, Ibini showed his quality to double the Jets’ lead.
Given plenty of time and space to drive at the Phoenix defence, Ibini got about 25 yards from goal before rifling a low shot just inside the post which gave Marinovic no chance.
Hoffman gets in on the act
And just like that it was 3-0 to Newcastle just a few minutes later.
Some more nice interplay on the left ends with Connor O’Toole playing the ball into the middle for Petratos.
While the attacker couldn’t manufacture space for a shot, he teed up Hoffman who blasted it into the net via the underside of the crossbar.