Dogged Jets swooped by Phoenix

A gutsy Newcastle Jets outfit has gone down 2-0 to Wellington Phoenix this evening at Westpac Stadium. The Jets were reduced to nine men in the game after key players Joel Griffiths and Mark Milligan were shown red cards by referee Matthew Breeze.

A gutsy Newcastle Jets outfit has gone down 2-0 to Wellington Phoenix this evening at Westpac Stadium. The Jets were reduced to nine men in the game after key players Joel Griffiths and Mark Milligan were shown red cards by referee Matthew Breeze.

It took 79 minutes for the Phoenix to break down the resilient Jets side, who battled on admirably despite the numerical disadvantage, and it was the prolific Shane Smeltz who would open the scoring.

Much of the focus in the first half revolved around Griffiths- send off in the 29th minute, when the star striker became entangled in the Wellington defence. Griffiths lashed out at Karl Dodd, who responded in kind, but only Griffiths was given his marching orders.

For the remainder of the half the Phoenix moved the ball around to make the most of their man advantage, while the Jets looked to hit the home team on the counter. Neither team could break down the other, with the Phoenix unable to get in behind a vigilant Newcastle defence. Youngster Marko Jesic found himself on the end of a few opportunities throughout the game but was forced to cut a lone figure up front for the Jets after Griffiths- departure.

Agony then turned to despair for the visitors just six minutes into the second stanza when Olyroo skipper Mark Milligan was shown a red card for lunging in on a loose ball, leaving the Jets down to nine men.

The Phoenix probed for an opening but were frustrated into taking shots from outside the area which left custodian Ante Covic largely untroubled.

All of that changed eleven minutes before time though when Smeltz displayed his predatory instincts by stealing in at the near post before firing his header into the top corner, giving Covic no chance. It was Smeltz-s 8th goal of the campaign and gave the home side a lead that they would hold for the remainder of the match.

Former Jets striker Troy Hearfield then rubbed salt into the wounds of his old teammates when he sealed the win in the 86th minute. The dangerous Leo Bertos created the goal, crossing to Hearfield to tap home his first goal for his new club.

The Jets continued to toil, particularly through standout midfielder Tarek Elrich, who drew numerous fouls from the Phoenix defenders through his enterprising runs. Elrich was rewarded in injury time with a penalty after being brought down by Dodd inside the area, only to have the ensuing spot-kick saved brilliantly by goalkeeper Mark Paston.

With Head coach Gary van Egmond confined to the grandstand due to a suspension handed down last round, his assistant Mark Jones spoke after the game regarding the loss.

“I thought we played quite well, even after losing Joel. We still managed to create a couple of good opportunities,” Jones explained.

“We were trying to get something out of it but that-s, of course, always difficult when you only have nine men.”

“We definitely hung in there, and with only 10 minutes to go we were unfortunate to concede the first goal and it-s hard to get back into it from there,” said Jones.

Newcastle will now return home to prepare for a crucial Round 13 encounter against AFC Champions League finalists Adelaide United next Sunday, 30 November at EnergyAustralia Stadium.

Match Details:

Wellington Phoenix Squad. 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN (c), 5. Karl DODD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 18. Ben SIGMUND, Emmanuel MUSCAT (13. Troy HEARFIELD 70-), 27. FRED (11. DANIEL 75-).

Unused substitutes:, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE

Yellow cards: Tony Lochhead 52-, Karl Dodd 76-

Red cards: Nil

Newcastle Jets Squad. 1. Ante COVIC (gk), 2. Adam GRIFFITHS, 3. Jade NORTH (c), 5. James HOLLAND, 8. Matt THOMPSON (6. Jesper HAKANSSON 82-), 9. Joel GRIFFITHS, 10. Jin-Hyung SONG (13. Adam D-APUZZO 56-), 11. Tarek ELRICH, 16. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 24. Marko JESIC (19. Jason NAIDOVSKI 89-), 26. Mark MILLIGAN.

Unused substitutes: 20. Ben KENNEDY (gk)

Yellow cards: Adam Griffiths 53-

Red cards: Joel Griffiths 29-, Mark Milligan 51-

Wellington Phoenix: 2 (Smeltz 79-, Hearfield 86-) Newcastle Jets: 0 Crowd: 5,500 Referee: Matthew Breeze