Goals from Ryan Griffiths and Emile Heskey proved to be enough for Newcastle to claim a spiteful F3 Derby against Central Coast.
|By MARK HUGHES
Goals to Ryan Griffiths and Emile Heskey have seen the Newcastle Jets hold on for a thrilling 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners in a pulsating and spiteful F3 derby at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.
Griffiths scored from the penalty spot in just the fifth minute of the A-League match before Heskey doubled the advantage on the hour mark.
But in true derby fashion the Mariners came back with a goal to substitute Bernie Ibini in the 71st minute.
The visitors piled on the pressure in the final stages of the clash and looked like they had pinched a share of the points when Patrick Zwaanswijk netted in injury time only for the goal to be crossed off for offside.
In between all of that excitement it was a true derby encounter with plenty of feeling and no less than nine yellow cards handed out as the Jets inflicted the Mariners' first loss of the season.
There was action from the first whistle when Jets midfielder Ruben Zadkovich was shown a yellow card for a leg-sweeping tackle on Mariners winger Joshua Rose in the first minute of play.
Referee Ben Williams hardly had time to dry his whistle when he blew a penalty against Mariners midfielder Michael McGlinchey for a clumsy challenge on Heskey just inside the 18-yard box after the Mariners defence had failed to clear a Jets through ball.
Griffiths stepped up to the spot and sent Central Coast goalkeeper Matthew Ryan the wrong way, burying a left-foot strike into the left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
The feisty nature of the derby continued with a number of crunching tackles from both sides including a Tiago Calvano tackle on Mariners striker Tom Rogic just outside the area. Zwaanswijk lined up the free-kick 20 out but could only put his shot into the wall.
From that point on it was mainly the visitors who had the better of play mounting a number of enterprising raids that had the Jets defence scrambling.
Newcastle goalkeeper Mark Birighitti produced a great save to deny an equaliser when he swatted away Trent Sainsbury's glancing header off a dangerous swinging corner from Mile Sterjovski in the 20th minute.
The Jets custodian again came to his side's rescue just moments later when Rogic sliced through on goal only to see his angled shot parried away by Birighitti who used his body well to smother the shot.
The Mariners continued to press with McGlinchey and Rogic creating havoc down the middle and Rose and Sterjovski threatening out wide but the well-drilled Newcastle defence held firm.
Down the other end Craig Goodwin was again a constant threat and a weaving run saw him break into space and fire a fantastic cross towards Heskey at the near post but Ryan was equal to the challenge and produced a brave diving save to extinguish the danger as the home side went to the half-time break with a one-goal advantage.
The Mariners started the second stanza brightly with Birighitti again doing well to cut out a threatening cross from Rogic when Daniel McBreen was free at the back post.
The visitors engineered the best chance of the match in the 52nd minute when Rogic sprinted into the box before slicing a ball back for Sterjovski who scuffed his shot from in front wide of the far post.
The Jets doubled their advantage on the hour-mark when right winger James Virgili produced an amazing run to weave his way past Rose and then Zwaanswijk before pulling the ball back from the byline for Heskey to poke it into the net.
The game continued to live up to its F3 derby reputation with Virgili, Heskey and Josh Mitchell shown yellow cards along with Pedj Bojic as Mariners coach Graham Arnold searched for something extra bringing on Bernie Ibini for Sterjovski.
The change worked when Ibini scored in the 71st minute after McBreen headed on a long throw-in for McGlinchey to push the ball back into the middle of the six-yard where Ibini stroked home to make it 2-1.
Virgili produced another weaving run to earn a free-kick on the edge of the box in the 72nd minute and Goodwin went close whipping in a venomous dipping shot that skimmed off the crossbar.
The Mariners continued to press in search of the equaliser with Rogic and Ibini only barely being held in check by the Jets defence and Birighitti showing his strength punching clear a dangerous McGlinchey cross into the box.
The Mariners looked like they pinched a draw deep in injury time when Zwaanswijk got on the end of a long-ball into the box and headed over Birighitti into the net only for it to be pulled back for offside as the Jets held on to record their second win of the season.