HANG TIME: Newcastle Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard wins a header during the 1-all draw against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday. Picture: Jonathan CarrollHow many times have you heard a match described as “a game of two halves”?
Well that old chestnut certainly got a workout at the Jets v Wanderers clash on Sunday, and in the media appraisals post game.
The Wanderers, playing their third game in eight days, were sharper, crisperand more fluent in the opening stanza, and went to the break comfortable, rather than dominant leaders.
The half-time discussion in the stands centred around disrupting the Wanderers flow, the Jets playing forward earlier, asking some questions of the Wanderers’ defence, and a general lift in intensity.
Knowledgeable pundit Andy Harper concurred on Fox Sports coverageand, perhaps more importantly, Jets coach Ernie Merrick saw things in a similar light.
Did the Jets lift? Did the Wanderers drop away? A combination of both?
Did the introduction of Joey Champness turn things around? You’d have to say it did, though to be fair the Wanderers did miss Kearyn Baccus’s midfield authority after he succumbed to illness.
All of that may have contributed to a change in fortunes, but there is no doubt that goals change momentum and matches more than any other factor.
After Dimi Petratos followed up the rebound from Roy O’Donovan’s snapshot, and restored scoreboard parity, there really looked likely to be only one winner.
The Jets started to go around a tiring Wanderers side, particular joy to be found down the visitors left-hand side, where RaúlLlorente at left back was hampered by a cork, picked up in the first half.
In the enda draw was probably a pretty fair reflection of the game. Both sides were perhaps left feeling a tinge of disappointment, but both were pleased to maintain their unbeaten starts to the season.
Given the circumstances of the weekend prior, the injury to Ronny Vargasand the psychological and physical toll that may have taken, and the pedigree of the Wanderers, a draw for the Jets is certainly no disaster.
They will be very eager to provide the fans with a home victory, however, as it has been nearly 12 months since that has happened at McDonald Jones Stadium.
No better time to do that, you might think, than with a home fixture this Saturday night in prime time, against a Wellington Phoenix side whogave up a 3-0lead against Brisbane at home last weekend.
This fixture, however, has traditionally proven to be a bit of a banana-skin game for the Jets, and not one to be complacent about at all, this time around. The two sides played each other in pre-season at Edgeworth not so long ago, and though I am wary of trial form, there were lessons to be learned.
The Jets looked in total control for most of that encounter, but Wellington had a 15-minute period, just after Ben Kantarovski departed his defensive midfield role where they ran amok, with a lively Roy Krishna to the fore.
Jets coach Merrick of course knows all about the qualities of the Fijian flyer, Michael McGlinchey and company, from his time at the Phoenix , and I am sure will be stressing the need for maximum effort and application.
It’s a hackneyed observation, but there really aren’t any easy games in the A league. Just ask Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat at the moment.
Last season’s runners-up are struggling, with two points from four games, but you’d fancy they will pick up the pace when World Cup qualifying commitments, and Besart Berisha’s suspension, end.
Last season’s record-breaking champions Sydney FC have started the season very professionally, winning three of four games, and coming from 0-2 down in the derby, to share the points with the Wanderers.
Surely they will finish top two again?
If I’m honest, I think they are close to a moral to win the premiers plate, but I may know more about that after Friday night’s top-of-the-table clash with the high-flying Melbourne City side.
English coach Warren Joycehas the sky-blue side of Melbourne ticking over nicely, and dare we write it, showing more discipline and desire than has been the case in previous seasons.
They clash at AAMI Park, and your columnist will be there in person,beforemy annual pilgrimage to Derby Day at Flemington, which coincides most handily with what should be a terrific contest.
Having told “Windy”, who had taken the $2.88 about the Wanderers on Sunday, to have a saving bet on the draw at $4.33, not three minutes before the Jets equalised, my confidence is back in a big way (although he ignored my suggestion completely).
So dear friends, and discerning readers, let me give you some advice, not likely to be approved at the Noel Whitaker School of wealth accumulation.
You can currently find odds of $1.90 about Sydney FC to win the minor premiership. Do so now, before Friday (you can always back up at a better price if City beat them), sit back and relax, and almost double your ample investment by May.
If in the unlikely event of a Graham Arnold-coached team losing its way, you will still be right in the running till season’s end, and able to save your stake if necessary.
Money for jam really. All thanks and gratuities can be forwarded to me care of the Herald, and please remember, always gamble responsibly.