Newcastle far too strong for poor Wellington

by Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 5
7:50pm, Saturday November, 2017 – Hunter Stadium

Newcastle United Jets FC 3 (Roy O’Donovan37′, Roy O’Donovan 45+1′, Andrew Nabbout 54′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 0


Newcastle Jets continued their unbeaten start to the 2017-18 Hyundai A-League season at McDonald Jones Stadium on November 4, comfortably accounting for a sluggish Wellington Phoenix 3-0 in front of just 6,258 fans to close to within two points of the league lead.

The home team were all over their opponents like a rash from the outset, squandering numerous chances to open the scoring inside the first fifteen minutes as Wellington’s former coach, Ernie Merrick, sought an early goal from the team he now guides.

Ali Abbas blocked a Roy O’Donovan drive just two minutes into the contest, as the league’s leading marksman looked to add to his tally. Soon after, Thomas Doyle and Keegan Smith nearly got themselves in a mix-up as Nikolai Topor-Stanley lofted one downfield.

With Joe Champness dashing in off the right flank, Doyle rode his luck by allowing the ball to bounce, after which he lobbed a back-pass into the hands of Smith, referee Kris Griffiths-Jones ignoring Newcastle’s protests about the legality of the transfer of possession.

Unperturbed, Newcastle kept on coming, Smith forced to turn a Dimitri Petratos drive round the post in the sixth minute. Sixty seconds later, Nigel Boogaard picked out Andrew Nabbout with a raking cross-field ball which the winger instantly turned inside to Petratos, whose deft back-heel invited Nabbout to let fly.

The fit-again Andrew Durante blocked this effort for a corner, which was whipped into the far post. Ben Kantarovski’s header was blocked, but he directed the ball back to Steven Ugarkovic, whose shot was saved at the second attempt by Smith.

There was little respite for the ‘keeper, who was relieved to see a Petratos free-kick pass his right-hand post in the ninth minute, before the combination of Petratos, Ugarkovic and the overlapping figure of Ivan Vujica resulted in a near post chance for Nabbout, his effort striking Smith, who knew little about the close-range attempt.

Wellington were a shambles in defence in this match, and that was best highlighted on the quarter hour, when from a quickly taken corner, Petratos’ cross picked out the head of the unmarked figure of O’Donovan. From five yards out, he headed wide, and could not believe he’d failed to direct his effort on target.

The visitors began to make it known that there were two teams on the pitch at this point, and in the nineteenth minute engineered their first opening. Michael McGlinchey’s corner was headed forward by Durante towards Dario Vidosic, who swivelled to let rip with a close-range volley, only to see it blocked to safety by the alert figure of Nabbout.

Two minutes later, Vidosic and Guilherme Finkler were prominent in a Wellington raid which broke down on the edge of Newcastle’s penalty area. The home team instantly counter-attacked via Petratos’ darting run through the middle, and it took some determined pursuit work by Daniel Mullen to prevent the playmaker from progressing beyond the centre circle.

After Doyle had stung the gloves of Jack Duncan with a twenty-yarder, Newcastle upped the ante again, with Kantarovski, Petratos and the overlapping figure of Jason Hoffman combining to open up the right flank and present O’Donovan with a chance which he would have been odds-on to convert had Durante not intervened with a vital touch to direct the ball away from the striker.

Champness went down under Abbas’ challenge in the area soon afterwards, with referee Griffiths-Jones deeming that he had dived. But he failed to brandish the yellow card, just as had been the case for Finkler moments earlier, after he kicked the ball away in frustration upon being called up for a harsh foul.

Both were incidents which, in another match, the offenders would almost certainly have received yellow cards. It’s inconsistently policed incidents such as these which frustrate players and give the refereeing fraternity a reputation which they struggle to overcome.

Eight minutes before half-time, the home team took the lead. Receiving a Durante pass, Goran Paracki passed the ball back towards Smith, thinking the goalkeeper was alone inside his eighteen yard box.

Sadly for Wellington, the recipient of the ball was O’Donovan, who wasted little time in taking full advantage of the gift, slamming it into the roof of the net at the second attempt after Smith had blocked his first shot at close quarters.

Moments after Champness had dragged a shot past the far post at the end of a move created by Hoffman’s ball forward and O’Donovan’s lay-off, Newcastle doubled their advantage in first half stoppage time.

Again, Hoffman was the instigator, the fullback picking out Boogaard with a fine cross-field ball which the midfielder chested down into the stride of Petratos, who dashed past Paracki into the penalty area, from where he drilled the ball into the goalmouth, the sphere ricocheting into the net off O’Donovan’s thigh – 2-0.

There was no chance for Wellington to respond before the half-time whistle, while after it, their hosts hit the ground running straight from the resumption, Smith parrying a Champness shot to safety after Nabbout and Petratos had combined to open up the Wellington rearguard.

Four minutes later, Hoffman sent O’Donovan dashing down the right, from where he delivered a near post cross intended for Petratos. Doyle’s intervention thwarted that prospect, but in the 54th minute Newcastle scored the third goal they were looking for.

Smith was given no chance by Nabbout’s rasping twenty yarder, the culmination of a move which began with O’Donovan’s enterprising back heel inside for Champness who surged forward with Petratos in support before slipping the sphere into the stride of Nabbout.

3-0 looked to be too tall a mountain for Wellington to climb in just over thirty minutes, and they very nearly conceded twice more inside the next five minutes, as the home team looked to put the game to bed.

Three minutes after the goal, Petratos was on the charge once more. He eventually slipped a pass into the stride of Champness, who rewarded Hoffman’s supporting run inside him with a pass which allowed the fullback to deliver a drilled cross.

The ball struck O’Donovan’s head – as opposed to him attempting to head it – and ricocheted to safety, giving the two-goal marksman the idea to stick to back-heeled passes in the interim.

Cue another such pass, with Petratos the beneficiary as the hour mark approached. He let rip with a twenty-five yard grass-cutter which Smith smothered low to his right, the last save of note he would have to make in the match.

Sadly for Wellington, they mustered very little in the final half-hour in their quest to reduce the deficit. McGlinchey’s free-kick round the wall fifteen minutes from time drew Duncan’s lone save of consequence in the entire contest, while Roy Krishna fired wildly over three minutes later after swooping on Vujica’s poor headed clearance.

In between these efforts, a clear foul on Paracki was ignored by referee Griffiths-Jones, allowing Nabbout to latch onto the loose ball. He sent his shot sailing over the bar, then saw Doyle block his attempt to make it 4-0 ten minutes from time, the last shot of note in one of the more one-sided encounters you’re likely to see this season, so poor were Wellington.

Match details

Crowd: 6,258

Newcastle United Jets FC: Duncan (gk); Hoffman, Boogaard, Topor-Stanley, Vujica (booked, 74); Kantarovski, D. Petratos (Brown, 81), Ugarkovic; Champness (K. Petratos, 77), O’Donovan (booked, 37), Nabbout (booked, 46) (Shabow, 86)

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Wellington Phoenix FC: Smith (gk); Mullen, Durante, Doyle, Abbas; Finkler (Parkhouse, 46), Paracki, McGlinchey; Krishna, Kaludjerovic (Watson, 68), Vidosic (Ridenton, 83)

Coach: Darije Kalezic

Points and ratings

Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones 3/10

Match 6/10
Pitch 7/10

Players points
3. D. Petratos (NUJ)
2. O’Donovan (NUJ)
1. Ugarkovic (NUJ)