The Newcastle Jets have opened their A-League 2020/21 campaign with a loss, falling 1-0 to F3 Derby foes Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.
Despite fashioning numerous chances to score throughout the contest, the Jets failed to capitalise on some enterprising attacking play and were thwarted on several occasions by former Newcastle custodian Mark Birighitti, who made a string of strong saves to deny the Novocastrians.
Craig Deans was forced into an early change in the contest, with experienced utility Jason Hoffman having to exit the match in just the 8th minute of the fixture following a challenge from Mariners’ captain Oliver Bozanic. Youngster Lucas Mauragis entered the fray for Hoffman.
Despite the early interruption to the Jets’ team, it was Newcastle who crafted the first clear-cut chance of the contest in the 10th minute. Strong work from Kosta Petratos down the left helped fashion an opportunity for former Port Macquarie Saint Angus Thurgate, however Thurgate couldn’t keep his left foot strike from just inside the area below the woodwork.
In the 35th and 37th minutes of the contest respectively Bozanic sent two efforts high of Jack Duncan’s crossbar, before Jets debutant Valentino Yuel had a great opportunity to stamp his mark on the match just before the 40thminute of F3 Derby 51. Yuel burst forward however his final pass failed to connect with the onrushing Newcastle attackers, and the chance went begging.
Seconds later, crafty play from Ramy Najjarine ended with Birighitti making a solid save to deny the Olyroo from the edge of the area.
Just three minutes later, Mariners youngster Alou Kuol put the home side ahead when he capitalised on some slack Newcastle defending to head home what would ultimately prove to be the only goal of the game.
The Mariners burst out of the blocks in the second stanza, creating early opportunities to extend their advantage through Josh Nisbet and Jaden Casella, however strikes from both players missed the target.
In the 51st minute of the fixture, a sublime Najjarine pass found Yuel, whose cross was met by K. Petratos. While K. Petratos steered his touch on target, scrambling work from Birighitti denied the Jets an equaliser by centimetres.
Just after the hour mark, Deans introduced attackers Tete Yengi (debut) and returning club favourite Ali Abbas to the contest. Both players helped to inject attacking endeavour into Newcastle’s front third as the game began to stretch.
The assistance of Yengi and Abbas, combined with more strong play from Najjarine, helped Deans’ squad to push for an equaliser, and in the 70th and 76th minutes of the encounter Newcastle again went close. Only a diving, fingertip save from Birighitti denied Thurgate from range with 20 minutes to play, while the Mariners’ shot-stopper held Steven Ugarkovic’s firm strike from distance with just under 15 minutes to go.
Keen to extend their advantage, the yellow-and-navy created two good opportunities to score late on. Solid ‘keeping from Duncan denied Nisbet in the 85th minute, before Bozanic hit the crossbar from range in the second minute of time added on.
While the defeat was a disappointing way to start the new campaign, Newcastle can be buoyed by the number of opportunities that they fashioned throughout the fixture – and will be seeking to add the final touch when the team returns to home soil next Friday evening (8 January) to take on the Western Sydney Wanderers at McDonald Jones Stadium at 7:00pm AEDT.
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Kuol 43’)
Newcastle Jets 0
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford, New South Wales
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Newcastle Jets FC: 23. Jack DUNCAN (Gk), 3. Jason HOFFMAN (27. Lucas MAURAGIS 8’), 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 11. Ramy NAJJARINE, 19. Kosta PETRATOS (15. Tete YENGI 62’), 22. Lachlan JACKSON, 29. Connor O’TOOLE, 32. Angus THURGATE (13. Maki PETRATOS 81’), 41. Valentino YUEL (14. Ali ABBAS 62’), 44. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY
Substitutes not used: 1. Lewis ITALIANO (Gk), 18. Jack ARMSON, 28. Blake ARCHBOLD
Coach: Craig Deans
Yellow cards: O’Donovan, Mauragis, O’Toole, Thurgate, Ugarkovic
Red cards: Nil