Newcastle Jets have missed the chance to close-in on bitter rivals Central Coast Mariners after the two sides played out a turgid 0-0 draw at Hunter Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After a build-up dominated by insults and sledges by both clubs, it was a much tamer affair on the pitch with neither side really doing enough to warrant all three points.
The result is the third week in a row the Jets have drawn to remain second from bottom, while the Mariners have lost further ground on the top six.
A Jets attack down the left found its way inside to Mitch Cooper just outside the box, with the midfielder letting rip with a thumping shot at goal. The ball crashed into the crossbar and bounced down near the goal-line before Liam Reddy got up to make the save. Jets players appealed for a goal but referee Adam Fielding waved them away, with replays showing it was really close but inconclusive. It was a huge let-off for the visitors and a massive talking point in an otherwise dour first-half.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Newcastle has now failed to beat their local rivals in the last eight matches, including the last four in a row at Hunter Stadium. But in a good piece of news for the Jets, they did manage to keep just their second clean sheet of the season in their 19th match and their first one in front of their home fans.
After Nick Fitzgerald’s initial shot was blocked, the rebound fell to an unmarked Nick Montgomery on the edge of the box. The Englishman – who doesn’t score a lot of goals – instinctively let fly with a first time volley which looked destined to nestle in the bottom corner of the net. But Ben Kennedy showed great awareness and reflexes to get down low to his right, parrying around the post. If that was good his save to deny Fabio Ferreira midway through the second half was even better, diving at full stretch to his right to tip the winger’s powerful curling effort over the bar.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
With finals realistically out of the question for the Mariners, it was a strange decision by coach Phil Moss to leave skipper John Hutchinson out of his starting side in the midfielder’s last F3 Derby. Hutchinson, who was quite vocal in the build-up to the match and is a player Jets fans love to hate, would have equaled Matt Thompson’s record of 221 Hyundai A-League appearances if he had got on. Given his service to the club and with little to lose on the pitch, surely Hutchinson should have played and started in what would have been his milestone match.
THE FINAL WORD
The Jets failed to bridge the gap on their fierce neighbours and will now hope to do it when they host Sydney FC next Friday night. The Mariners have an extra two days to prepare for their home clash against Melbourne City on Sunday.
Newcastle Jets: Kennedy, Neville, Mullen, Regan, Gallagher, Caravella, Pepper (Cowburn 84’), Alivodic (Pavicevic 54’), M. Cooper (Welsh 71’), Ki-Je, Montano
Central Coast Mariners: Reddy, Roux, Anderson, Pocoliero, J.Rose, Caceres, L. Rose (Bingham 58’), Montgomery, Ferreira, Fitzgerald, Cernak (Trifiro 76’)
Red cards: none
Yellow cards: Caravella 28’, Welsh 74’
Conditions: 27C, DryAttendance: 7991 @ Hunter Stadium