The NPL Northern NSW got underway on Thursday night at Charlestown, with our young Jets taking to the pitch just six weeks after wrapping up their Foxtel Y-League campaign.
With the Blues fancied for a foray into the top four this season, not many predicted this type of scoreline – 3-1 in favour of the Jets.
Labi Haliti, in charge of his first NPL match after the summer’s Y-League campaign, cut an animated figure on the sideline for the full 90 minutes as he rode every pass, tackle, and shot.
It’s a result which puts the Jets Youth on top of the NPL Northern NSW ladder on Friday morning – but with four games left to play, other results may change that before the weekend is out.
Charlestown had the better of the early play on Thursday night, with a sighter from the dead ball after two minutes and a Scott Smith chance at the front post just before the 15-minute mark failing to find the back of the net.
A quick break from Maki Petratos and Angus Thurgate saw the latter nearly punish the Blues shortly after, but it was another counter-attack which did give the Jets an early lead.
Breaking fast from their defensive third, Pat Langlois carried the ball through the middle third before threading the needle to find Thurgate. He took it towards goal, and then finished beautifully to put his side into the lead.
The Blues nearly pulled one back just moments later however, when Cal Lewis hit a stunning strike which rocketed back off the crossbar. Kane Goodchild then fired in a half-volley which forced Noah James into an incredible save to keep the Jets in front.
With just over half an hour gone, the Jets doubled their advantage. After an interception down the left-hand side, Mat Barkho set off before squaring a ball back to Maki Petratos. He took a touch, had a look, and placed it superbly into the top corner.
After taking the two-goal lead through to half-time, it took just five minutes into the second stanza to extend it further. It came from the captain, Kieran Hayes, the man who scored a winner at Lisle Carr Oval back in Round 10 last season.
It wasn’t a buffer which the Jets would enjoy for long though, as disaster struck. Defender, Cal Gabriel misjudged where his ‘keeper, Noah James, was and his backpass ended up going past the goalkeeper and into the back of his own net.
In his scramble to save, James came down hard on his right shoulder and was writhing in pain inside the goal. Eventually cleared to play on, the goalkeeper made an incredible diving save on the hour mark before signalling to the bench.
On in his place came young goalkeeper, Brodie Volkiene, for his first senior NPL Northern NSW appearance. He didn’t look out of place, though, making a neat diving save to his right to deny Rene Ferguson in the 68th minute.
Newcastle’s advantage was almost pushed back out to three in the 76th minute after a driven cross from Maki Petratos was almost turned into the Charlestown net by a retreating defender.
The substitution of Kent Harrison just prior to that chance was the catalyst of something of a second wind for the young Jets, who were going forward with some speed.
Petratos, Harrison, and Joey O’Connor all had chances in the final third but weren’t able to fire home. In the end, it didn’t matter, with the match ending in comfortable victory for the Jets in their first NPL foray of 2019.