Jets, Mariners all square

A Sasho Petrovski goal in injury time has given the Newcastle Jets a thrilling 1-1 draw with the Central Coast Mariners in a typically tough derby clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Wednesday night.

A Sasho Petrovski goal in injury time has given the Newcastle Jets a thrilling 1-1 draw with the Central Coast Mariners in a typically tough derby clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Wednesday night.

The Jets dominated possession and territory in the first half but couldn’t break down a determined Mariners defence and when Matt Simon broke the deadlock in the 49th minute with a fine right foot shot it appeared the visitors had the momentum and the game in their keeping.

But the home side never gave up second-half substitute Petrovski poked home the equaliser deep into injury time after a goal-mouth scramble following a long throw-in into the box from defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

Jets coach Branko Culina was pleased with his side’s determination to fight back and grab a draw.

“I thought we deserved three (points),” he said. “We had most of the chances and the opportunities especially in the first half but didn’t take them. And we had most of the play in the second half apart from when they scored their goal.”

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold was also pleased with the Mariners’ effort and thought his side was unlucky not to have claimed the win.

“I was very proud of the players. I thought the boys were outstanding,” Arnold said.

“I thought there was only one team on the field that should have won, but that is the way it is.”

The match started in perfect conditions in front of another healthy crowd of 7731 and it was English import Francis Jeffers who had the first chance in the ninth minute.

Marko Jesic provided a deft through ball for the former England international to race into the penalty area but he dragged his shot just wide of the far post.

Just moments later Jeffers fired a snap half-volley from 25 metres out that rocketed narrowly over the crossbar.

The Jets were dealt a body blow half hour mark when they lost Jeffers with what looked like a groin injury. Labinot Haliti came on to join Jesic up front for the home side.

The Mariners had their best chance on goal in the first half when midfielder Oliver Bozanic latched onto a loose ball after a corner and streaked into the penalty area only for Newcastle goalkeeper Ben Kennedy to smother the play.

Newcastle enjoyed the better play in the remaining minutes of the first half and went close on two occasions.

Jets skipper Ljubo Milicevic saw his header from a Kasey Wehrman cleared off the line by Trent Sainsbury before Ali Abbas fired a blistering volley from 30 metres out that forced a fine fingertip save from mariners goalkeeper Matthew Ryan to keep the sides locked at 0-0 at half-time.

The task was made harder for the home side when Milicevic succumbed to an ankle injury at the break and was replaced by Jobe Wheelhouse.

The Mariners grabbed the lead in the 49th minute via Matt Simon, who scored his fourth goal in seven F3 derby clashes.

Dynamic young midfielder Mustafa Amini worked hard to grab possession in an attacking position 30 metres out from goal and he offloaded it to Simon just inside the area. The lanky striker’s first touch took him wide before he fired a crisp right-footed shot across Kennedy and inside the far post to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The goal tipped the momentum the Mariners’ way and they attacked with venom for the next 15 minutes but the Jets were able to hang on thanks to some desperate last ditch efforts from the Newcastle defence.

The home side went close to leveling the match in the 76th minute when Ruben Zadkovich delivered a dangerous cross into the box from the right wing. The Mariners defence failed to clear the threat and Wheelhouse pounced on the loose ball only to see his first shot saved by Ryan before the Central Coast custodian re-gathered before Wheelhouse could deliver the killer blow.

Down the other end Mariners substitute Adam Kwasnik missed a chance to put the game beyond doubt when he just couldn’t get a boot to a Michael McGlinchey flick with the goal at his mercy.

The Jets threw everything at the Mariners in the final minutes and were finally rewarded for their endeavour when Petrovski managed to flick a shot into the top corner of the net after a goal-mouth scramble to give the Jets a share of the points.

The draw keeps the Mariners in fourth place on the table, while the Jets slip to eighth, but are just two points behind the Victory in sixth place.

Newcastle Jets 1 (Petrovski 90+2)
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Simon 49)
Crowd 7731 at EnergyAustralia Stadium