Sheppard extends Jets' F3 Derby dominance over Mariners
Kaine Sheppard gave Newcastle Jets a nervy 1-0 victory over Central Coast Mariners as their F3 Derby winning streak stretched to five matches on Wednesday night.
Sheppard buried his third Hyundai A-League goal in the 54th minute to hand Newcastle their first win since these teams met on December 23, lifting the Hunter club at least temporarily to within seven points of sixth-placed Adelaide United.
The Mariners went close to an equaliser on three separate occasions in the second half but Ernie Merrick's men held on for a precious three points at McDonald Jones Stadium.
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Newcastle entered with just a single victory from their previous seven home matches but quickly asserted a measure of control over the contest.
Nikolai Topor-Stanley had a tidy volley disallowed for offside before a retreating Jonathan Aspropotamitis was required to nod a goal-bound Sheppard effort off the line.
The Mariners, missing suspended skipper Matt Simon, were subdued going forward until Jack Clisby fired over the bar in the closing stages of a cagey first half.
Wing-back Clisby turned provider after the interval with a good cross that Michael McGlinchey nodded straight at Glen Moss.
Ben Kennedy repelled a Sheppard header at the other end but the striker needed no further invitation to break the deadlock as Roy O'Donovan escaped into the left channel and squared for his fellow forward to tap home.
Jordan Murray appeared destined to equalise when Moss parried Clisby's cross in into his path in the 65th minute, only for Ivan Vujica to miraculously divert the close-range finish over the bar.
The Jets continued to ride their luck as Lachlan Jackson produced a superb challenge on substitute Connor Pain after Aspropotamitis headed a corner against the woodwork.
And centre-back Jackson had to be alert once more to preserve his side's advantage in stoppage time, crucially turning a goal-bound Murray effort off the line as Central Coast's two-match unbeaten run came to an end.