A Nikolai Topor-Stanley header on the stroke of full-time has seen the Newcastle Jets escape with a frustrating 1-1 draw against a gallant Gold Coast United.A Nikolai Topor-Stanley header on the stroke of full-time has seen the Newcastle Jets escape with a frustrating 1-1 draw against a gallant Gold Coast United at Hunter Stadium on Friday.
The Jets went into the match as odds-on favourites and they enjoyed the majority of possession and territory but seemed to lack that killer instinct, while the Gold Coast, marshalled heroically at the back by skipper Michael Thwaite and centre-back Zach Anderson were content to absorb the pressure and attack on the counter.
A goal against the run of play to youngster Daniel Bowles gave the visitors the lead midway through the first half and Gold Coast displayed a gutsy defensive effort to thwart a myriad of attacking forays by the Jets until Topor-Stanley eventually cracked the stubborn defence right on full-time.
The draw moves the Jets into fifth spot but allows the Heart, Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory a chance to draw closer with the rest of the round to be played.
The Jets controlled possession early but did not really create any firm goal-scoring opportunities.
Byun and Ryan Griffiths were finding space down the left flank but the Gold Coast defence coped calmly with every cross.
The best chance for the home side fell to striker Francis Jeffers who made a good run in behind the Gold Coast defence to pull down a lobbed pass from Jobe Wheelhouse.
But the English import's first touch let him down and Thwaite was able to clean up.
The Jets showed signs of vulnerability when the Gold Coast attacked on the counter with Joshua Brillante getting through into the box but firing his shot wide of the target midway through the first half.
Just moments later the Gold Coast opened the scoring when Maceo Rigters pushed a sharp pass through for Bowles whose well-timed run saw him streak into the area before unleashing a solid right-foot shot that found the far corner of the net for the visitors to lead 1-0 after 24 minutes.
Gold Coast almost doubled their advantage when Bowles pounced on a loose back pass from Wheelhouse 40 out from the Jets goal and raced into the box but this time he sent his shot over the crossbar.
Needing to chase the game Jets coach Gary van Egmond made an instant reaction bringing on striker Jeremy Brockie for defensive midfielder Ben Kantarosvki, with Jeffers moving back into an attacking midfield role.
The Kiwi international had an immediate impact when he popped up at the back post to meet a Tarek Elrich cross only to balloon his header over the crossbar.
Brockie brought the crowd to their feet on the stroke of half-time when he attempted an ambitious bicycle kick but his shot flew well over the bar and the Gold Coast took a 1-0 lead into the break.
Newcastle came out with more intent in the second half but it was Gold Coast who threatened again when Bowles looked to have been brought down in the area by Tiago, but referee Ryan Shepherd thought otherwise.
The Jets eventually became more desperate playing a high attacking line and a lovely pass from Jeffers played Taylor Regan into the penalty area but the defender's first touch was too heavy and Gold Coast goalkeeper Jerrad Tyson was able to dive on the ball.
The Jets made another change just after the hour mark when Michael Bridges came on for Regan, with the Englishman playing up front alongside Jeffers, Griffiths and Brockie moving out to the wings and Tarek Elrich slotting in at right back.
With the Jets pushing forward in search of a goal they left themsleves open at the back for the counter attack and the Gold Coast almost made them pay when Matt Harold raced onto a long ball and fired a shot from just inside the area that was well saved by Jets goalkeeper Ben Kennedy.
Van Egmond played his last hand by bringing on Ali Abbas for Griffiths in the 74th minute.
A flowing piece of football between Bridges and Jeffers created a great chacne for Brockie in the 78th minute but he fired his shot from 16 meters out over the bar.
The Jets continued to launch wave after wave of attack but the Gold Coast were content to 'park the bus' with the whole team camped in their own final third as they frustrated Newcastle's attempt to equalise.
Jeffers went close to levelling the scores when he fired from outside the area and the ball came off Thwaite and ballooned up into the air where it narrowly spun over Tyson's crossbar.
The Jets eventually scored the equaliser right on full-time when Topor-Stanley burst into the box to get in front of Anderson and head a home an Abbas free-kick to make it 1-1.
The home side pushed hard for an injury-time winner but a desperate Gold Coast defence clung on for a hard-fought draw.