It was a dusty old afternoon which greeted the Jets out in Dubbo on Saturday, who were facing off against last season’s Hyundai A-League Champions.
Newcastle were without a trio of key men, with Wes Hoolahan, Ben Kantarovski, and Glen Moss all sidelined while Sydney had left Kosta Barbarouses and Alex Wilkinson at home.
The story was more about who was playing for Newcastle – Nigel Boogaard and Nikolai Topor-Stanley started together at the heart of defence for the first time this pre-season, while Bobby Burns played his first minutes as a Jet in the starting XI.
The opening 11 minutes saw saves at both ends – Andrew Redmayne diving down sharply to his left to deny a Dimi Petratos free kick in the sixth, and Lewis Italiano batting away an Adam Le Fondre shot from outside the area in the 11th.
A golden opportunity presented itself in the 20th minute, when the Jets were awarded a penalty. It came after some brilliant build-up work – Bobby Burns steaming down the left and whipping a ball in to the back post, where Jason Hoffman knocked it down for a waiting Kaine Sheppard.
He was felled, and Newcastle had a penalty which Dimi Petratos stepped up to convert – but his spot kick hit the post and bounced clear.
Sydney’s best chance of the half came just past the half hour mark after a quick break from the Sky Blues presented Milos Ninkovic a chance from the top of the box, but he shot uncharacteristically wide to keep the scores level at nil.
A few opportunities at the end of the half came the Jets’ way – Nick Fitzgerald let go from outside the area while Dimi Petratos put one over the top after a Burns cutback – but the boys went to the sheds without a goal.
Three changes were made at the break for Newcastle – Lachlan Jackson, Abdiel Arroyo, and Johnny Koutroumbis came on in place of Nigel Boogaard, Kaine Sheppard, and Bobby Burns.
The game settled into one played between the two 18-yard boxes for much of the early parts of the second half, with the only chance in the half’s opening 25 minutes for Newcastle coming via an Abdiel Arroyo cutback which was just beyond the reach of Steven Ugarkovic.
Chances followed as the game began to stretch in the final twenty minutes – Nick Fitzgerald flashed one across the face and had another agonisingly cleared off the line by some desperate Sydney defending, while Dimi Petratos shot just wide after he was teed up by brother, Kosta.
An opportunity to win it at the death came when Steven Ugarkovic was played in, but with the last kick of the game his effort hit the crossbar and bounced agonisingly over the top.