A well-taken first half goal to Devante Clut wasn’t enough for Newcastle Jets to defeat Central Coast Mariners in Tamworth on Saturday.
Scott Miller’s men were ultimately left to rue their profligacy in front of goal, with the Mariners claiming a 2-1 pre-season trial win in front of an impressive 2,154 fans in Australia’s country music capital.
Clut gave the Jets - who also hit the woodwork twice in the first half through wingers Andrew Hoole and Andrew Nabbout - the lead in the 36th minute when he turned Jason Hoffman’s precise cross into the back of the net.
But the lead didn’t last long for Newcastle - Central Coast restored parity just three minutes later when former Wellington Phoenix attacker Blake Powell scored from close range.
Mariners took the lead five minutes after the interval when Connor Pain sent a crisp low strike beyond Jets goalkeeper Jack Duncan.
While Duncan was forced to deny Roy O’Donovan from distance mid-way through the second half, it was Newcastle who came home the stronger of the two sides despite there ultimately being no alteration to the scoreline.
Hoole sent an effort from range just over the crossbar in the 73rd minute, and three minutes later Nick Cowburn nodded a header from a corner wide of the mark.
Hoole made a great run down the left in the 84th minute and centred dangerously but the ball just evaded substitute attackers Andy Brennan and Radovan Pavicevic.
And in time added on Steven Ugarkovic headed wide from a corner for the Jets, while the final play of the game could have seen Brennan level the score, however his header from Hoffman’s cross flew wide.
Despite the result, Newcastle Jets Head Coach Miller said his team could take plenty of positives out of the club’s four-day camp in Tamworth.
“In context we have worked very hard throughout the week physically, and to have such a performance is pleasing to a degree,” Miller said. “We were very dominant in the first half [and] I was very pleased with that, though hitting the crossbar and the post was hard to take.”
“But it’s about the week in Tamworth. It’s been a very productive week regarding the values we are setting and the identity of the team.”
“Although today was an important fixture in the progression [of the team] it’s not a clear reflection of our mindset at the moment. We feel we are on the right path and that we are playing very good football.”
Key players at the club including captain Nigel Boogaard and attackers Morten Nordstrand and Labinot Haliti are making good progress in their respective rehabilitations from injury, and Miller is looking forward to adding that quality - plus a new European number nine - into his squad mix soon.
“Competition will be very hot come the start of the season for starting positions,” he said.
Meanwhile, Miller outlined the next steps in his side’s pre-season, plus thanked the people of Tamworth for their hospitality, after the match.
“Next week we will be back in Newcastle to continue our progression in terms of our process and then we will be going to China for about 10 days in which we will play three games, which is another vital component of our pre-season.”
“The way Tamworth has accepted us and looked after us has been great. To be here and to have such a playing surface to play here is a privilege for everyone and I am sure the Jets will be back next season,” he said.
Newcastle Jets 1 (Clut 36’)
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Powell 39’, Pain 50’)
Venue: Scully Park, Tamworth
Substitutes not used: 1. Ben Kennedy (Gk), 14. Mitch Cooper
Yellow cards: Hoffman
Red cards: Nil
Newcastle Jets: 6. Blake Powell (18. Matt Fletcher 65’), 7. Fabio Ferreira (13. Kwabena Appiah 17’), 8. Nick Montgomery (C), 9. Roy O’Donovan, 11. Connor Pain (15. Brad McDonald 58’), 14. Adam Berry, 19. Jaques Faty (5. Harry Ascroft 70’), 20. Paul Izzo (Gk) (1. Ivan Necevski 61), 21. Michael Neill, 22. Jake McGing, 25. Ryan Peterson
Substitutes not used: Nil
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil