Play-Offs rivals share spoils In Newcastle

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 12 – 2016/2017 – Round 12
5:35pm, Monday 26 December, 2016 (Boxing Day) – Hunter Stadium, Newcastle

Newcastle United Jets FC 2 (Hoole 48’, Nabbout 62′)
drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Barbarouses 35’, Finkler 50′)

Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix shared the spoils in their final Hyundai A-League game of 2016 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Boxing Day, playing out a 2-2 draw in front of 8,451 fans.

The visitors began brightly, with Roly Bonevacia seeing a third minute shot blocked to safety after concerted pressure, but Newcastle gradually got on top of their rivals, although their option-taking in the final third of the pitch was far too often their downfall, to the extent they mustered just one noteworthy attempt on goal in the first half-hour of play.

That came to pass in the ninth minute, via a slick raid down the left after Ivan Vujica had caught Jacob Tratt in possession. The ball was quickly shifted to Wayne Brown, who released Andrew Nabbout through the offside trap, only for the striker to shoot straight at Glen Moss.

Wellington’s ‘keeper saved in similar fashion from Steven Ugarkovic just after the half-hour mark, either side of which Guilherme Finkler was central to two set-piece opportunities for the visitors, the first of which deserved better fate.

The Brazilian playmaker lined up a twenty-yard free-kick in the 28th minute and unleashed a gem of a shot over the wall and beyond the diving figure of Jack Duncan, only for the ball to cannon off the post and ricochet off the incoming figure of Roy Krishna to safety.

Finkler’s second set-piece contribution, a 33rd minute corner which was headed over the bar by Krishna from eight yards, was followed by the opening goal of the game, ten minutes before half-time.

Andrew Durante and Vince Lia combined to release Tratt down the right on the overlap. He played the ball forward to Krishna, who evaded a challenge before feeding Costa Barbarouses inside him.

The striker used the pace of the ball to beat one defender, then weaved twixt two more before steering his shot beyond the diving figure of Duncan to give Wellington a 1-0 lead.

Two minutes later, the visitors came close to doubling their advantage. Finkler released Barbarouses down the right, and his low cross careered across the bows of the incoming figure of Krishna, much to the relief of Duncan and company.

The home team were keen to get back on level terms before the interval, and after Jason Hoffman had headed an Andrew Hoole corner over the bar, worked a neat opening in the 43rd minute.

Vujica worked a one-two with Mateo Poljak before riding his luck through three challenges to leave himself in the opposition’s penalty area – nose-bleed territory for any defensive-minded fullback.

Moss turned Vujica’s shot round the post, then parried an ambitious effort from Hoole, after his corner had been cleared back to him. Durante cleaned up after Moss’ save, and put Wellington back on attack as the half drew to a close.

Before referee Jarred Gillett – he made his fair share of bewildering decisions throughout proceedings, among them ignoring offences, e.g. kicking the ball away, for which yellow cards are generally produced – blew the half-time whistle, Wellington twice went close.

Adam Parkhouse – playing further forward in this game to accommodate fullback Tom Doyle’s inclusion – worked a one-two with Bonevacia which, but for Hoffman’s timely challenge, would have put the local in behind the Newcastle defence. The resulting corner culminated in a Lia piledriver which he directed straight at Duncan.

The second half got off to the liveliest start possible – two goals inside the opening five minutes. Newcastle got off to a flying beginning, Daniel Mullen releasing half-time substitute Morten Nordstrand down the right with a pass which allowed the Dane to get in behind Doyle and set up Hoole for the easiest of well-placed finishes.

That equaliser came in the 48th minute, but within two minutes Wellington had silenced the natives by regaining the lead. Tratt squeezed between two opponents on the attack to thread the ball through for the unmarked figure of Krishna, who darted into the penalty area before drawing the defence and setting up Finkler for a near post tap-in.

They nearly undid Newcastle again in very similar fashion just sixty seconds later. Finkler’s through ball allowed Krishna to exploit the out-of-position Nigel Boogaard, but Mullen was on hand to clear his low cross to safety this time round.

In the 53rd minute, Barbarouses intercepted a Newcastle pass just inside his own half and scampered fifty yards downfield before steering a low shot across Duncan towards the far corner of the net, only for the diving goalkeeper to prevent the game’s first scorer from extending Wellington’s advantage.

It was a crucial save, as eight minutes later, Newcastle were back on level terms. Vujica flicked on a throw-in to the unmarked figure of Hoole, who had Durante turning himself inside-out before, from fifteen yards, and to the local faithful’s delight, Hoole curled home a fifteen-yarder off the inside of the far post – 2-2.

Now it was Newcastle’s turn to dominate proceedings once more. Nordstrand led a 64th minute counter-attack which culminated in Hoole’s drive from the edge of the area being turned round the post at full stretch by Moss. From Hoole’s resulting corner, Nordstrand directed his header past the same upright.

The Danish substitute was causing Wellington plenty of problems, with Durante having to come across and help Marco Rossi thwart his progress in the 67th minute, five minutes after which the visitors’ captain picked out substitute Hamish Watson with a lofted ball forward which the newcomer chested down to Barbarouses, who directed his twenty yard drive straight at Duncan.

Newcastle continued to press, but it was Durante who inspired the game’s next clear-cut chance, launching a ball forward for Watson to chase down in the 83rd minute. Sadly for the visitors, the substitute butchered a great chance to win the game, allowing fellow newcomer John Koutroumbis to step in and avert the danger for the home side, who piled on the pressure in search of a late winner in response.

Poljak was the eventual recipient of a Hoole corner in the 85th minute, but Krishna stood his ground well to thwart the midfielder in Wellington’s penalty area. Three minutes later, Moss flew to his left to keep out a Nabbout effort, after substitute Ma Leilei had sent Hoole racing away on the left.

Nabbout then worked a one-two with Nordstrand, whose return pass was a peach, allowing Nabbout to accelerate between two defenders and squeeze a shot past the advancing figure of Moss, who was relieved to see the ball hit the side-netting a minute from time.

Cue stoppage time, during which Wellington were fortunate not to concede a late penalty when Tratt’s shirt-pulling on Ma wasn’t spotted by the officials, the defender’s intervention preventing the substitute from reaching Nabbout’s low cross to the near post.

Newcastle pressed again, but Rossi’s timely interception prevented Nordstrand from breaking clear. Instead, that honour befell Barbarouses, who buccaneered into the penalty area, only to be thwarted by the equally vital intervention of Hoffman, whose challenge ensured that parity would be the outcome in this match, a result neither team really wanted with the pressure mounting in the race for the play-offs.

Match details

Crowd:  8,451

Newcastle United Jets FC:  2. Daniel MULLEN, 3. Jason HOFFMAN, 4. Nigel BOOGAARD (C) (28. John KOUTROUMBIS 54’), 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 7. Andrew HOOLE, 8. Mateo POLJAK, 10. Wayne BROWN (18. MA Leilei 87’), 13. Ivan VUJICA, 15. Andrew NABBOUT, 20. Jack DUNCAN (Gk), 23. Devante CLUT (19. Morten NORDSTRAND 46’)
Substitutes not used: 16. Nicholas COWBURN, 30. Pierce CLARK (Gk)

Yellow cards: Ugarkovic 73′, Koutroumbis 85′
Red cards: Nil

Coach:  Mark Jones

Wellington Phoenix FC:  1. Glen MOSS (Gk), 2. Jacob TRATT, 4. Roly BONEVACIA, 8. Gui FINKLER (23. Matthew RIDENTON 82’), 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 12. Adam PARKHOUSE (5. Ryan LOWRY 87’), 13. Marco ROSSI, 17. Vince LIA, 19. Thomas DOYLE (11. Hamish WATSON 68’), 21. Roy KRISHNA, 22. Andrew DURANTE (C)
Substitutes not used: 16. Louis FENTON, 20. Lewis ITALIANO (Gk)

Yellow cards: Tratt
Red cards: Nil

Acting Coach: Chris Greenacre

Points and ratings

Match  6/10
Pitch  8/10

Referee  Jarred Gillett 3/10  

Player points:
3.  Hoffman (NUJ)
2.  Barbarouses  (WP)
1.  Krishna (WP)