|By STEVE ORME
The Newcastle Jets have returned to the winners' circle with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers in an action-packed A-League encounter at Parramatta Stadium.
In front of 9,011 boisterous fans, the home side hit the front early when Shinji Ono set up Joey Gibbs in the 14th minute.
The visitors answered emphatically with goals to Ryan Griffiths and marquee man Emile Heskey to hold a one-goal buffer at the break.
And the Wanderers threw everything at the Jets in a fiercely contested second stanza but Mark Birighitti stood tall for the visitors, saving four genuine shots on goal to deny Tony Popovic's men.
Newcastle finished the match with 10-men after Jacob Pepper was issued a red card for a heavy challenge on Ono in the 90th minute, but the Jets survived a tense finish to consolidate their position in the top four.
It was a brave effort from the Wanderers, though, who lost skipper Michael Beauchamp through illness on game day.
But the brilliance of Ono was not enough to get the competition newcomers over the line.
The Japanese superstar made up for an early miss when he delivered the final pass for Gibbs to score the opening goal of the contest 14 minutes in.
Hersi and Ono worked a clever give-and-go on the edge of the box to send Ono in behind the Jets defence.
The Japanese legend delivered a classy cross for Gibbs who made no mistake from point-blank range to send the home fans into a frenzy.
The Jets hit back through Griffiths on the half-hour.
James Brown played the ball wide to Scott Neville who delivered a dangerous cross to Griffiths and Heskey on the edge of the six-yard box.
Griffiths beat his team-mate to the ball and kissed a glancing header off the inside of the far post to beat Covic and draw level.
Heskey continued a prolific start to his Hyundai A-League career in the 36th minute as he gave the visitors their first lead of the contest.
The big striker muscled his way into the box and flicked a clever cross from Craig Goodwin at the target with the outside of his right boot.
Covic got his hands to the ball but was unable to take it cleanly, giving Heskey his fifth goal in six matches this season.
Former Jet Mark Bridge pleaded for a penalty late in the half after a heavy challenge from Josh Mitchell, but referee Brenton Hayward waved play on to send the visitors into the rooms with a one-goal buffer.
The Wanderers had the better of the opening minutes of the first half and were unlucky not to equalise when Gibbs sent a thunderous shot just wide of the right post in the 57th minute.
Gibbs looked certain to score three minutes later when he was left unmarked deep in the penalty box, but Birighitti made a crucial save from point-blank range.
He saved the day again in the 70th minute when he denied also Ono from a one-on-one.
|By STEVE ORME
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