Undermanned Jets punish lacklustre City to secure vital win
Roy O’Donovan and Joey Champness have come off the bench to inspire an undermanned Newcastle Jets to an upset 3-1 win over a disappointing Melbourne City on Friday night.
Jets boss Ernie Merrick made seven changes to his side ahead of their trip to Japan for the ACL qualifier next week but his crop of youngsters and fill-ins put in a performance to be proud of.
Scores were locked at 1-1 with 15 minutes left after City new-boy Jamie Maclaren cancelled out Jair’s first-half opener.
That’s when Jets substitutes Champness and O’Donovan took over, each getting on the scoresheet within four minutes of each other to inspire the Jets to one of the best wins in the club’s history.
The result means the seventh-placed Jets have closed the gap to both Wellington Phoenix and City to six points as they try to make a surge for the finals with eight games to go.
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The Jets kept a close watch on Maclaren in the first half but he still managed to fire a warning shot from distance on 14 minutes which went just wide of the post.
Jair’s powerful volley was saved superbly down low by Eugene Galekovic soon after but the Brazilian wouldn’t be denied the next time the ball came into the City box.
Jair started the move, releasing Johnny Koutroumbis down the right and his lofted cross to the far post came back to the classy attacker who leapt highest to plant his header past Galekovic.
The Jets took a deserved lead to the break but were pegged back just 10 minutes after the restart.
Some nice build-up play by the visitors ended with Luke Brattan’s deflected cross going past a sea of Jets defenders to Maclaren who had the simple task of tapping in from close range.
The match was now there for the taking and it was the Jets’ two subs that made the difference.
First O’Donovan raced on to Jair’s through-ball to find an unmarked Champness to fire under Galekovic and regain the lead for the home side.
Then just a few minutes later, Champness repaid the favour, laying the ball into the path of the Irishman to put the game to bed.
The Jets won’t have long to celebrate their win though as they leave at 5am on Saturday to begin their journey to Japan for Tuesday night’s ACL qualifier with Kashima Antlers.