MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Kew Jaliens is mobbed by teammates after opening the scoring. Picture: Getty Images SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 02: Kew Jaliens of the Jets celebrates with team mates after scoring the opening goal as Ante Covic of the Wanderers shows his frustration during the round 21 A-League match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Newcastle Jets at Parramatta Stadium on March 2, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 02: Kew Jaliens of the Jets celebrates with team mates after scoring the opening goal as Ante Covic of the Wanderers shows his frustration during the round 21 A-League match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Newcastle Jets at Parramatta Stadium on March 2, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Jets defeat Wanderers 2-0: photos
Jets give finals hope the kiss of life
NOW to do it at home.
Newcastle Jets produced their most disciplined performance of the season to dispose of a flat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 at Pirtek Stadium last night and kiss life into their play-off hopes.
A goal in each half to Kew Jaliens (35th minute) and Adam Taggart (65th) – his 10th for the campaign – was enough to seal three points and move them within reach of the top six.
The win leapfrogged the Jets above the Melbourne Heart, who they host on Saturday, and two points adrift of sixth-placed Sydney FC.
“It was a win to stay in touch with the pack,” satisfied Jets coach Clayton Zane said.
“The players knew the importance.
“It wasn’t the most compete match in terms of what we are capable of but a very good reaction based on the performance last week.
“[Against Sydney] we lacked a cutting edge in the final third. Today we had that. We always looked like we had goals in us.
“A little bit of counter-attacking, and I guess that is the way we seem to get success away from home.”
The Jets are the only team in the league to beat the top three – Brisbane (twice), Wanderers and Adelaide – away from home.
Winning at Turton Road has been the issue.
Ten games have yielded 10 points from two wins, four draws and four losses, the worst record in the competition.
With four of the remaining six games at Hunter Stadium, it’s a statistic they need to fix and fast.
“I think it is a little bit of belief,” Zane said.
“Part of that is putting the ball in the back of the net.
“We need to use the result today to try and convince them that they can do it at home. It is still in our hands.”
The Jets entered the round-21 fixture in ninth place, five points behind Sydney FC.
They couldn’t afford to give the top six any more space and fielded their most attacking line-up of the season.
Joel Griffiths came in for his first start, Andrew Hoole returned on the left of midfield and Josh Mitchell was preferred over Taylor Regan to partner Jaliens at the back.
“I think the addition of Griffo and Hooley into the team, I wouldn’t say it gave us more football, but those two, in particular, were quite composed when they received the ball in wide areas,” Zane said.
“Taggs was always a threat on the counter-attack.
“Emile showed a bit of intuition.
“He realised there was a big hole in behind the striker and was smart enough to go and play there.”
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic made two changes from the 3-1 loss to Ulsan Hyundai in their opening Asian Champions League group game on Wednesday.
Drizzle added to an already heavy and slippery surface.
The usually vocal Wanderers supporters group, the Red and Black Block, stayed silent to protest against sanctions imposed after flares were lit during the ACL clash.
The lacklustre atmosphere flowed on to the team.
“From start to finish, we were very flat, which is uncharacteristic from us,” Popovic lamented.
“You hope they pick it up as the game goes on, but it just didn’t happen.
“The little things that we do very well – winning the first ball, winning the second ball – we struggled with that throughout the game and we lacked a bit of spark in possession.”
The Jets dictated the tempo early and opened the Wanderers on the break, only to be let down by the final ball.
Eventually, their enterprise paid dividends in the 35th minute, and Jaliens was the unlikely assassin.
Left unmarked at the back post, he met an inch-perfect cross from Hoole with a powerful header.
Taggart went close to doubling the lead on the hour when he ran on to a through ball from Heskey but was denied by a brilliant save from Ante Covic.
Covic could not do anything to stop the Jets striker five minutes later.
Collecting a ball over the top from Heskey, Taggart wriggled past Nikolai Topor-Stanley and fired a shot that deflected off the heel of Matthew Spiranovic and into the left corner.