A Daniel McBreen brace has powered Central Coast Mariners to a convincing win over F3 Derby rivals Newcastle Jets
|By Mark Hughes
Former Novocastrian Daniel McBreen returned to haunt his home-town club at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night, scoring a double in Central Coast's 2-0 win against Newcastle Jets.
The A-League's leading sharpshooter continued his recent purple patch of form to help the Mariners return to the top of the premiership table, leapfrogging Adelaide.
McBreen, who had scored seven goals before Saturday night, moved three clear of his nearest rivals in the golden boot race, with a neat finish four minutes into the second half.
Mariners fullback Josh Rose broke clear down the left wing, steadied himself, and crossed perfectly to McBreen.
The 35-year-old collected it sweetly on the half-volley with his right foot and left Jets keeper Matthew Nash with no chance.
In the 66th minute he made it 2-0 with his ninth goal of the season - eight in the past six games - with a clinical header.
The win lifted Central Coast to 23 points, one ahead of Adelaide, and avenged their only loss of the season, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of their F3 derby rivals in round three.
Newcastle have taken one point from their past four games but remain fourth on the ladder, although they will slip to fifth if Wellington win at home against Sydney on Sunday.
With a healthy crowd of 13,112 in attendance on a balmy evening, honours were even after a scoreless first half but the home side were clearly riding their luck, as Central Coast had five shots to Newcastle's one.
McBreen had the best scoring chance of the opening stanza, only for Nash to make a point-blank save in the 41st minute.
Nash, Newcastle's third-choice gloveman this season, kept his team in the game, twice foiling Oliver Bozanic in threatening situations.
At the other end of the pitch, left winger Craig Goodwin looked Newcastle's most dangerous weapon but was unable to link with marquee striker Emile Heskey.
Goodwin blasted a long-range volley in the 24th minute that flew harmlessly high and wide to the left.
But for his troubles he was upended seconds later by Mariners defender Trent Sainsbury, who earned a yellow card for his efforts.
Heskey, who has been kept scoreless for four games, had Newcastle's best chance of the second half when he blasted a missile into the side netting.
Newcastle's only other decent scoring opportunity came in the 60th minute, when acting skipper Ruben Zadkovich struck a fiercely hit free kick into the safe hands of Mariners keeper Mathew Ryan.
After conceding seven yellow cards and a red in last week's 1-0 loss to Brisbane, the Jets showed improved discipline last night.
Defender Connor Chapman and substitute Michael Bridges were their only players booked.
Newcastle were without defender Josh Mitchell and winger Ryan Griffiths, both suspended, as well as injured stars Jobe Wheelhouse, Ben Kantarovski, Ben Kennedy and Mark Birighitti, and Socceroos representative Adam Taggart.
Taylor Regan came in as central defender, and Goodwin replaced Griffiths on the left edge.
Central Coast made only one change, promoting Patrick Zwaanswijk off the bench in a straight swap for Zachary Anderson.