Newcastle fire five to march into top six

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Newcastle Jets FC 5 (Heskey, Griffiths, Taggart x 2, Bridges)
Wellington Phoenix FC 0

Newcastle Jets fired themselves into the Hyundai A-League play-off spots on March 22 by trouncing Wellington Phoenix 5-0 in front of 9,483 fans at Hunter Stadium – the third time in six games that the team with the league’s worst defensive record has shipped five goals.

The final scoreline never looked like materialising throughout out a cagey first half in a match which neither team could afford to lose, given just three games remain in round-robin action, and both were outside the play-off spots at the start of play.

Defences understandably dominated early on, with the game’s first chance taking fourteen minutes to materialise. Tyler Boyd fed Shaun Timmins on the overlap down the left, but when the fullback returned the favour with a measured cross, Boyd executed an air-shot when hitting the target appeared the easier option.

Newcastle claimed a penalty three minutes, but referee Strebre Delovski wasn’t having a bar of it, Adam Taggart having been shouldered aside by Andrew Durante as Glen Moss came to gather Emile Heskey’s flicked header which his front-running partner was pursuing.

Moss cleared the ball downfield to Boyd, who played a neat one-two with Kenny Cunningham to get in behind Newcastle’s defence, having outfoxed Kew Jaliens initially.

Ben Kennedy, making his first start twixt the sticks in eighteen months, was swiftly out to save at the feet of Boyd, one of the few occasions the Newcastle custodian was troubled throughout proceedings.

Jaliens was involved again at the other end of the park in the 24th minute, setting up Joel Griffiths for a cross which picked out

Taggart in between defenders. Moss produced a fingertip save to turn the striker’s header over the bar.

Four minutes later, at the other end of the park, Stein Huysegems sent the ball soaring over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area, after good work through the inside right channel by Roy Krishna, the lone Fijian on the park in a match featuring players who have represented eight countries in international action.

After Durante’s timely interception prevented David Carney’s low cross from reaching Jaliens, after Griffiths’ fine ball had picked out Carney darting in beyond the far post, the home team opened the scoring ten minutes before half-time.

Carney’s corner was flicked on by Griffiths to the far post, where the unmarked figure of Heskey gleefully stabbed the ball home from a tight angle to score his first goal in over a year.

Wellington sought a swift riposte, Jaliens stepping in to clear four minutes later after Durante and Huysegems, following a partly cleared corner, worked a one-two on the edge of the area which left Wellington’s captain bearing down on goal.

On the stroke of half-time, Cunningham sent the ball sizzling narrowly over the bar from twenty yards after driving his free-kick into the defensive wall, the last act of a first half which was as tight as the 1-0 scoreline suggests.

The visitors were still inside the dressing rooms mentally when referee Delovski blew his whistle to start the second spell, and paid the price inside the opening minute. Right from the kick-off, Griffiths stormed down the right before cutting inside and slipping a pass into the stride of Heskey, who was only denied a second goal by the legs of Moss.

His effort earned a corner, however, and Carney picked out Griffiths with a measured delivery which the striker volleyed home emphatically, Moss barely seeing the ball as it flashed past him into the back of the net.

Newcastle continued to press after the goal, sensing Wellington were there for the taking. Moss saved a twenty-yarder from Ruben Zadkovich before Heskey’s pass into the stride of Carney saw the winger power past three opponents before undoing all his good work by playing the ball behind Taggart, who was poised to strike at the near post.

In the 57th minute, Taggart was perfectly placed again, and this time there was no reprieve for Wellington. Zenon Caravella, who got through a ton of work for the home team, turned provider with a gem of a cross which Taggart darted in between defenders to meet with a header which he guided into the top far corner of the net.

There was no way back for Wellington now, and they played like that was the case, failing to muster a single shot worthy of the description inside the last half-hour of a match played on an awful pitch, one made so by the start of the rugby league season.

Even had they had thirteen men on the pitch, it’s doubtful whether Wellington would have made any impact on proceedings in the time remaining. In the 69th minute, only the legs of Moss stood between Newcastle and a fourth goal, Zadkovich having sent Taggart tearing through the inside left channel in search of his second goal.

It didn’t arrive on this occasion, but thirteen minutes from time, Taggart was leading the celebrations for the thirteenth time this season, the league’s leading marksman having been picked out by Mark Bridges’ cross, after he had combined with fellow substitute Craig Goodwin on the left.

Bridges’ delivery should have been cleared by Michael Boxall, but he made a hash of it, allowing Taggart the chance to pounce. He swivelled on the ball and let fly, the ball ricocheting off the defender and past the wrong-footed figure of Moss into the roof of the net – 4-0.

Newcastle saved the best until last – literally! In the final minute of stoppage time, Goodwin flighted in a free-kick which found Bridges lurking beyond the far post, some fifteen yards out from goal on the angle.

He met the ball with the outside of his right foot on the volley, and the sphere fair screamed past Moss into the top far corner of the net – 5-0! And it was the last kick of the match to boot, with Wellington not even having time to kick off again before referee Delovski put them out of their misery, and allowed Newcastle to savour climbing back into the top six, on goal difference from Sydney FC.

Match details:

Crowd: 9,485

Newcastle United Jets FC: Kennedy (gk); Brilliante (booked, 36), Jaliens, Mitchell, Gallaway; Caravella, Taggart (Oxborrow, 84), Zadkovich (booked, 75); Carney (Goodwin, 71), Heskey (Bridges, 74), Griffiths

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk); Muscat, Boxall, Durante, Timmins; Ridenton (Hicks, 52), Lia, Cunningham (booked, 78); Krishna (Watson, 72), Huysegems, Boyd (Brockie, 52)

Ratings and points

Match 5/10
Pitch 2/10
Referee: Srebre Delovski 6/10

Players points:
3. Ryan Griffiths (NUJ)
2. Emile Heskey (NUJ)
1. David Carney (NUJ)

By Jeremy Ruane