Newcastle Jets kept their faint A-League play-off hopes alive with a 2-1 win over Melbourne City on Monday.
Goals from Nick Fitzgerald and Steven Ugarkovic either side of Florin Berenguer’s equaliser were enough for Carl Robinson’s men, who now sit just three points behind sixth-place once again.
So, what did we learn from what might just be the last bit of live football we see for quite some time?
1. Jets claw themselves back into contention
Newcastle had gone six games without defeat prior to their 1-0 loss at Brisbane Roar last time out, giving themselves a shot at making the play-offs when they’d long looked cut adrift.
That defeat to Robbie Fowler’s side could have easily derailed the Jets and sent them crashing back down the table but, to their credit, they put in an incredibly brave and disciplined performance against one of the A-League’s most consistent sides this season.
Fitzgerald gave Carl Robinson’s side the lead just before half-time and throughout, the Jets’ defence denied City freedom and space to create — the A-League’s second-highest scorers, of course, managed to equalise, but Ugarkovic quickly responded with a screamer to restore the home side’s lead.
Although the teams above them have games in hand, the Jets are back to within three points of sixth place, keeping them in with a sniff of making the play-offs.
2. Maclaren silenced
Jamie Maclaren had scored four goals in his last two games prior to this one, including a fine hat-trick in City’s 4-2 win over Central Coast Mariners last time out, surging to the top of the A-League’s Golden Boot standings.
All eyes were on him again on Monday but Robinson had obviously done his homework as his Jets side did a wonderful job of silencing the league’s leading marksman.
Maclaren didn’t have a single touch in the opposition box during the first half and was totally starved of service, while things didn’t improve much for him after the break.
Credit must go to the Jets for silencing the A-League’s most prolific marksman and, ultimately, sealing the win.
3. Super subs can’t save City
Monday’s first half was nothing short of terrible for Melbourne City. Patrick Kisnorbo’s side were slow and lethargic in their build-up play, they didn’t get anywhere near enough service to Jamie Maclaren, and they fell behind just before half-time thanks to Fitzgerald’s clever finish. Something needed to change.
Shortly after the break, assistant coach Kisnorbo — who took charge of first team with Erick Mombaerts currently self-isolating — introduced Berenguer and Craig Noone and almost instantly, City looked a changed side. Suddenly, Melbourne were testing the Jets, moving the ball quicker and delivering a number of dangerous crosses into the opposition penalty area.
That finally paid dividends when the two substitutes combined on 71 minutes to level the scores. Berenguer switched the ball out right to Noone and set his sights on the far post. Noone was alive to the movement and delivered an inch-perfect cross to Berenguer, who needed no second invitation to head his side level.
A lack of concentration from City and goalkeeper Tom Glover saw Newcastle quickly restore their lead — we’re betting Kisnorbo had some choice words in the dressing room after this one, given his inspired changes.
4. Glen Moss hits milestone
With 29 caps for New Zealand and over 15 years’ worth of experience under his belt at this level, Glen Moss has enjoyed a long and fruitful career between the sticks in this part of the world.
Moss has been stuck on 249 A-League appearances and with his retirement looming at the end of the season, will likely have been desperate to make it 250.
The future of this A-League campaign is in serious doubt due to the coronavirus outbreak, with Perth Glory and Western United’s clash later on Monday already postponed, and Moss would surely have been fearing he’d never see 250.
In a great show of sportsmanship, Robinson brought Moss on for the final five minutes of this one, allowing the 37-year-old to finally hit his landmark, while even City manager Kisnorbo had some words of encouragement for the veteran as he entered the pitch.
Given everything going on in the world right now, this was a wonderful moment which Moss will treasure once his career is officially over.