It was a hard-earned win for Ernie Merrick’s men as they took three points in Auckland, downing the Wellington Phoenix 1 – 0.
The win all but assures the Jets second position and a home semi final, while further strengthening the likelihood of an Asian Champions League appearance next year – with any possible qualification still dependant on other results.
Despite earning a win on the road, the Jets didn’t have it all their own way against their less-fancied opponents who were left to rue their inaccuracy in front of goal.
Jack Duncan was brought into the action early, as Roy Krishna and Nathan Burns looked to get in behind the Jets defence – creating some half chances in the opening exchanges.
It would be a telling sign for the rest of the evening, as the fleet-footed attackers used their pace to trouble the Jets backline on their way to creating a number of wasted opportunities.
Dimi Petratos was looking dangerous in his final match before joining the Socceroos squad, while Pato Rodriguez was coming into his own after returning from injury.
Jason Hoffman would break the deadlock, with the fullback making the most of the Phoenix’s inability to clear their line just before half time. After re-collecting a deflected cross and his first strike on goal, Hoffman took a second shot in heavy traffic to beat Velaphi and net the eventual winner.
After the break the Phoenix made their intentions clear, as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser but Jack Duncan again made his presence felt with some outstanding glove work.
The moment Jets fans had been waiting for would come midway through the second half, with Ronald Vargas making his much anticipated return from injury.
The attacker had some silky touches and looked untroubled in his 30-minute shift, putting on a sublime through-ball to Angus Thurgate who went within an inch of a maiden A-League goal in the closing stages of the match.
The Phoenix almost had an injury time equaliser after a dramatic final minute of play, but Jack Duncan would be the hero, pulling off a remarkable reflex save from the set piece.
A tough performance filled with promise as the Jets begin their run home into the Finals Series.
4’ | 0 – 0 | Close! A darting run from Rodriguez into the area, he’s just cut off by the Wellington defence before he can get a strike away #WELvNEW
7’ | 0 – 0 | SAVE! Jack Duncan makes no mistake as Burns fires on goal #WELvNEW
11’ | 0 – 0 | CHANCE! Dangerous cross from Georgievski, as Champness flew high to get a head on the ball – Velaphi just gets his hands to it #WELvNEW
14’ | 0 – 0 | CHANCE! Petratos puts Velaphi under some pressure from the attacking free kick with a sharp effort – so close! #WELvNEW
15’ | 0 – 0 | SAVE! Duncan again keeps Burns at bay, great work from the young custodian #WELvNEW
21’ | 0 – 0 | CHANCE! Nice little build up there, as Petratos gets free down the edge of the box and fires in a low cross that just evades a charging Champness #WELvNEW
30’ | 0 – 0 | CHANCE! What a ball from Steve Ugarkovic! Joe Champness goes close in the area, but he’s just cut off by the Phoenix defence #WELvNEW
43’ | 1 – 0 | GOAL! Hoffman! #WELvNEW
43’ | 1 – 0 | Hoffman takes advantage of the Phoenix’s inability to clear in defence, beating Velaphi on the line with his third strike! #WELvNEW
47’ | 1 – 0 | SAVE! Great diving effort from Jack Duncan to deny Roy Krishna #WELvNEW
63’ | 1 – 0 | The moment we’ve been waiting for! After 153 days, welcome back Ronny #WELvNEW
75’ | 1 – 0 | CHANCE! Oh so close Angus Thurgate! After getting some exquisite service from Vargas in the midfield, Thurgate gets a shot past Velaphi but it hits the post #WELvNEW
90’+4’ | 1 – 0 | JACK DUNCAN! What a save! #WELvNEW
Newcastle Jets: 1.Jack DUNCAN (gk), 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 7.Dimitri PETRATOS, 11.Pato RODRIGUEZ 17.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 24.Joseph CHAMPNESS, 27.Riley McGREE 44.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY
Subs: 8.Ronald VARGAS, 12.Mario SHABOW, 16.Nick COWBURN, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 32Angus THURGATE
Subs Not Used: 12.Mario SHABOW, 20. Glen MOSS (gk)
Yellow Cards: 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI (24’)
Goals: 3.Jason HOFFMAN (43’)
Wellington Phoenix: 3.Scott GALLOWAY, 4.Goran PARACKI, 6.Dylan FOX, 7.Nathan BURNS, 8.Matija LJUJIC, 18.Sarpreet SINGH, 19.Tom DOYLE, 21. Roy KRISHNA, 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 26.Liberato CACACE, 40.Tando VELAPHI (gk)
Subs: 1.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 9.Andrija KALUDJEROVIC, 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY, 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 14.Alex RUFER
Subs Not Used: 1.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 14.Alex RUFER
Yellow Cards: 8.Matija LJUJIC (12’)