Newcastle end goal drought to edge Wellington

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 15

7pm, Sunday 17 January, 2016 – Hunter Stadium, Broadmeadow

Newcastle United Jets FC 3 (Trifunovic 7′, Kitto 26′, Carney 66′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Ridenton 81’)

A splendid rearguard action by Newcastle Jets’ ten men staved off a strong challenge from Wellington Phoenix at Hunter Stadium on 17 January, the home team breaking their goalscoring drought to prevail 3-1 in front of 7,595 fans.

Newcastle hadn’t scored for some 9.5 hours going into this match, but after surviving Wellington’s first attack of the match – a surging fourth minute run from Roly Bonevacia which culminated in a piledriver which Mark Birighitti parried into the path of Michael McGlinchey, but which the incoming striker couldn’t react to – they ended that drought, although not without the intervention of referee Jarred Gillett.

David Carney fired in a sixth minute free-kick which eventually found its way to Ben Kantarovski. He hoisted a cross to the far post where Enver Alivodic saw his first attempt to head home parried by Glen Moss.

The winger was afforded a second opportunity to bundle the ball over the line, however, but his celebrations upon doing so were cut short by referee Gillett, who was pointing to the penalty spot, and was already in the process of finding himself surrounded by players of both teams – how to win friends and influence people, eh?

Eventually it became apparent that he had blown his whistle when the ball was in flight towards Alivodic, having seen some shirt-pulling on Milos Trifunovic which prevented him from jumping to head the ball.

The offended player put the ball on the spot and, despite Moss’ best efforts, found the corner of the net to the undisguised delight of Newcastle’s fans – the first goal their team had scored in 565 minutes of football.

Wellington sought an equaliser, with McGlinchey’s twenty-eight yard free-kick earning a corner after Birighitti had collided with the post in his efforts to ensure it stayed out.

This set-piece was cleared downfield, with Alivodic leading Troy Danaskos a merry dance before inviting Carney to shoot. His twenty-five yarder flew past the post, and from the resulting goal-kick Wellington defender Dylan Fox sent Blake Powell dashing down the left, from where, after evading a challenge, he fizzed in a low cross which both Bonevacia and McGlinchey were two strides away from turning home.

How Wellington were to rue that miss, because in the 26th minute, they found themselves two goals down. Alivodic again led the charge, feeding Carney with a pass which put the seasoned campaigner through on goal with Moss to beat. The ‘keeper parried the resulting shot, but Ryan Kitto, following in, steered the rebound into the untended net – 2-0.

Newcastle’s fans couldn’t believe their eyes, and they so nearly scored a third goal seven minutes before half-time. Carney nutmegged Fox on the edge of the area, and was promptly brought to ground. The offended player pinged the resulting free-kick to the far post, where Trifunovic rose to meet it, only to direct his header over the bar from six yards.

From the resulting goal-kick, Albert Riera combined with Danaskos for the fullback to thread a delightful ball through for Powell to take advantage of. He would have done, but for a splendid covering challenge from Nigel Boogaard, who epitomised the performance of the Newcastle rearguard throughout this encounter.

Powell went close again before the interval, holding the ball up well before turning two defenders and sending a ten-yard shot on the turn arrowing inches past Birighitti’s left-hand post.

By which time Newcastle should have been three goals to the good. Kitto, the scorer of the second goal, charged down a Justin Gulley clearance and swept a deep cross to the far post, where Alivodic was flying in on cue. His header left Moss clutching at thin air, and was destined for the back of the net until Andrew Durante’s timely intervention hooked it off the line.

Wellington came out all guns blazing in the second half, and Newcastle’s defence had to be on its toes from the outset. Yet it was the home team who produced the first goalscoring threat, a gorgeous cross from Alivodic, intended for Kitto, forcing Fox to produce a diving headed clearance over his own crossbar just sixty seconds after the resumption.

Cue the first of numerous Wellington attacks, this one featuring Alex Rodriguez, Danaskos and Bonevacia, who cut inside and let fly, only for Birighitti to block the shot. Half-time substitute Thomas Doyle’s bid to ram home the rebound was blocked by a defender, a sight which was to become increasingly familiar as the half wore on.

Either side of this raid, Bonevacia sent the ball past the post and over the bar, and when Kantarovski committed his second bookable offence in the 58th minute – referee Gillett wielded both yellow and red cards in quick succession – it wasn’t beyond the realms to think Wellington’s numerical superiority, allied to the pressure they were already applying, would see them overwhelm their hosts.

Newcastle had other ideas, however, and after Moss had smothered a twenty-yarder from Carney, and Lachlan Jackson’s superb tackle had denied Powell at the other end of the park, the home team sprung a 66th minute counter-attack which left Wellington facing Mt. Everest.

Following Jackson’s tackle, Daniel Mullen and Jason Hoffman swiftly transferred the ball to Alivodic, who had a massive game for the home team. He instantly sent Carney careering through the offside trap, and the veteran took his time before curling the ball beyond the advancing figure of Moss – 3-0 to the ten men, a blow which took the wind from Wellington’s sails.

They weren’t the same attacking threat after this goal as they were prior to it. Substitutes Doyle and Kwabena Appiah-Kubi fired shots past the post in the next ten minutes, before Wellington reasserted their attacking efforts, only for Newcastle’s stoic rearguard action to thwart the very best that Bonevacia, McGlinchey, Appiah-Kubi and company could throw at them.

Ten minutes from time, they found a way through it, only for Birighitti to dash out and save at the feet of Appiah-Kubi, seconds before substitute Matthew Ridenton sent a low cross fizzing across the goalmouth, in between a quartet of Wellington players.

Seconds later, Ridenton got the visitors back in the match, sweeping home a Powell cross from close range after Doyle had ignited the move via a quickly taken free-kick which caught Newcastle napping.

The goal gave Wellington fresh impetus, with Doyle allowed to run unchecked for forty yards into the Newcastle penalty area before his shot was blocked. Then, after a timely tackle by Fox had foiled home team substitute Mitch Cooper, Ridenton’s right wing raid culminated in his cross into the danger zone being completely misjudged by McGlinchey, who squandered a glorious chance to reduce the deficit still further.

Durante did get the ball in Newcastle’s net before the final whistle, but did so from an offside position at a time when the home team had all ten players inside their own penalty area, such was their desperation to hold out Wellington and clinch a rare victory.

Seconds later, they achieved their objective, and as a result of winning drew level on points with seventh-placed Wellington, whose own top six hopes are beginning to fade – they have recorded just one win in their last nine games.

Match details

Crowd: 7,595

Newcastle United Jets FC:    Birighitti (gk); Hoffman, Mullen, Boogaard, Jackson; Alivodic, Kantarovski (booked, 36, 58 – sent off), Poljak (booked, 85), Kitto (Cooper, 82); Trifunovic (Cowburn, 65), Carney (Leonardo, 90)

Wellington Phoenix FC:      Moss (gk); Gulley (Doyle, 46), Fox (booked, 38), Durante, Danaskos (Ridenton, 76); Lia, Riera, Rodriguez (Appiah-Kubi, 62); Bonevacia, Powell, McGlinchey

Referee    Jarred Gillett

Ratings and points

Match  6/10
Pitch  8/10
Referee  4/10

Players points:
3.  Alivodic (NUJ)
2.  Carney (NUJ)
1.  Fox (WP)

By Jeremy Ruane