Angus Thurgate marked his 50th A-League game by scoring the winner as Newcastle Jets continued their resurgence with a 1-0 triumph against rock-bottom Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
Thurgate delivered the killer blow in the 72nd minute after a smart cut-back from Valentino Yuel as newly appointed head coach Craig Deans celebrated his first three-point haul since taking over the Hunter outfit on a permanent basis earlier this month.
But Newcastle’s third win of the season, and third in their last four games, came as no surprise after the visitors imposed themselves in a deadlocked first half, although Grant Brebner’s men had a strong spell after the interval with the returning Callum McManaman lifting the basement dwellers.
Victory gloveman Max Crocombe was forced into a superb double save to deny Roy O’Donovan and Yuel before 21-year-old Olyroos hopeful Thurgate finally made the breakthrough to edge the Hunter outfit ahead, lashing in his fourth career A-League goal.
An 81st-minute injury to stand-in captain Adama Traore left the Navy Blue reduced to ten man, with coach Grant Brebner having made all of his allocated changes, and the hosts were booed off the pitch after being kept goalless for the fourth time in their seven matches this season.
Following the worst campaign in their history in 2019/20, finishing 10th, the four-time champions are left rooted to the foot of the ladder without a win in four games, and with three straight losses, while the Jets are propelled into the top six following four matches unbeaten and a third straight clean sheet.
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Coming out of a five-day state lockdown, Adama Traore led out the Victory side at AAMI Park with usual captain Leigh Broxham dropping to the bench.
But the Ivorian was under pressure in the opening stages as the returning Matt Millar – whose loan spell in England with Shrewsbury Town was cut short – charged inside and fired an attempt off target after the Jets established control in the opening quarter hour.
The Navy Blue showed their first signs of life in the 20th minute when Birkan Kirdar freed the dynamic Robbie Kruse on the right-hand side and, after his dangerous cross was cleared for a corner, Ryan Shotton powered a bullet header over the away side’s crossbar. Space then opened up for Kruse after Traore’s searching pass but the Socceroo could not generate enough on his strike to trouble ‘keeper Jack Duncan.
Victory were on a roll as Callum McManaman, playing first game in six after recovering from an ankle injury, threatened and Jack Brimmer’s shot was blocked by a lunging Nikolai Topor-Stanley. Storm Roux was then lucky to escape with a caution after a flying challenge left O’Toole in a crumpled heap and Angus Thurgate saw a chance fall to him at close range but Navy Blue gloveman Max Crocombe spread himself to block.
Feeling the effect of his collision, Roux was replaced by Broxham in the 38th mintue, and four minutes later the Victory veteran drilled an effort a fraction wide from 25 yards after Brimmer’s initial free-kick was blocked in the final action of the half. And the home side stated their intensions after the interval as McManaman drilled a dipping shot in the 49th minute that Duncan was forced to fingertip on to the post.
After Victory had a penalty shout for handball against Broxham turned down, Traore lashed a long-range strike over the bar on the hour mark. The Jets had a spot-kick appeal of their own waved away when substitute Luka Prso was chopped down by Jacob Butterfield, before Crocombe came to Victory’s rescue with a stunning double save from Roy O’Donovan’s header and Valentino Yuel’s close-range follow up.
But Victory were unable to hang on as Yuel’s deft flick teed up Thurgate to shoot, and the midfielder found the corner of the net with a clinical finish. The hosts’ comeback hopes were dampened when Traore limped off with no substitutes remaining, before Archie Goodwin almost made a dream Jets debut but Crocombe pushed the 16-year-old’s stoppage-time effort away, as the final whistle was met with a chorus of jeers.
Melbourne Victory v Western United
Saturday, 27 February 2021
Venue: Marvel Stadium
Kick-off: 7.10pm AEDT
Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix
Sunday, 28 February 2021
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 6.10pm AEDT