Coach lauds Jets striker’s ‘contagious’ trait that’s led to history made in dream debut season

Newcastle Jets striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos bagged his 16th goal of the season in a 2-0 win over Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Brisbane began the evening aiming to claim a vital three points that would have sent the Queenslanders to within two points of the top six but second-half goals to Clayton Taylor and Stamatelopoulos settled an impressive win to the away side.

Stamatelopoulos’ 16th goal of the season closed the gap on the Golden Boot leaderboard to just two; the Jets striker is one goal shy of Perth Glory Adam Taggart’s tally of 17 as Melbourne Victory star Bruno Fornaroli leads the way on 18.

Not only did that Stamatelopoulos goal seal an impressive win for the Jets but it also saw the Australian striker equal the Newcastle club record for most goals scored a in season, a record now shared with Adam Taggart who hit 16 goals back in the 2013-14 season.

Post-game, Jets head coach Robbie Stanton lauded his striker for setting an example in the playing group for others to follow – including pestering club staff for match footage as he consistently seeks to improve his game.

“His performances and the outcomes, goals, are a reflection of the hard work he continuously puts in, the attitude and the mindset that he (brought) into the club, the approach, winning mentality,” Stanton said.

“A hard work ethic (with) extras and unit work. A lot of the players are consistently doing unit work and you see that in the game, you see little moments where players make good decisions because they work hard in not just the team actions and the group but we do isolated stuff.

“He’s one who pesters my assistant coach Damir (Prodanovic) and others for video, non-stop about how he can get better and constantly want to work – and same with others, they’re all doing it. Because of what he’s done it’s become contagious, it’s a leadership quality there. On the pitch, U’ve given him the armband at the moment, he’s enjoying that and he’s leading from the front – and everyone’s following suit.

“He’s only (just) turned 25 now so he’s still relatively young, but is showing strong leadership and so are a few of the other boys I think. I’m really proud of them.”

Apostolos Stamatelopoulos (right) and Roar captain Tom Aldred.

The Jets came close to an opener against Brisbane in the 15th minute when Carl Jenkinson’s header from a corner landed in Reno Piscopo’s path inside the six-yard box. Piscopo flicked an inventive attempt towards goal but Roar keeper Macklin Freke made a reflex save to keep the Jets at bay.

Antonee Burke-Gilroy was presented with a glorious chance just beyond the half-hour mark after Corey Brown’s determined run off the left wing. Brown found Burke-Gilroy with a cut-back cross and his shot beat Ryan Scott in goal, but was cleared off the goal line by Daniel Wilmering.

Henry Hore kept up the Roar pressure with a shot at the back post that drifted invitingly across goal to Florin Berenguer, who was closed down by Callum Timmins and Scott as Brisbane’s best chance of a dominant first half went begging.

Newcastle ripped the ascendancy away from the hosts in the second half with two goals in 10 minutes, beginning with a strike from the edge of the area from Clayton Taylor who was given far too much time and space to score his second goal in as many games.

The Jets made it two just beyond the hour mark and it was Golden Boot contender Stamatelopoulos who provided a pinpoint header to bury Kosta Grozos’ inviting free-kick into the bottom-left corner and put the Jets out of sight.