Jets fire late to draw with Wanderers
THEY huffed and they puffed, but Newcastle and the Wanderers had to settle for a stalemate in the Hunter.
A 1-1 draw at McDonald Jones Stadium left the sides unmoved on the table, Newcastle in third just ahead of Western Sydney, from 90 minutes of toil.
Though the Wanderers were comfortably ahead on points after the first half, leading by Mark Bridge's early strike, the Jets forced their way back into the contest after the break and secured parity thanks to Dimitri Petratos.
It was hardly a classic, bereft of many moments of inspiration in the later afternoon heat
This was an important occasion for the Jets, needing to prove that their promising start to the season had not been derailed by the nasty injury sustained by Venezuelan winger Ronald Vargas a week ago.
Buoyed by a crowd of 11,468, they set about Western Sydney, but found every attack running aground in the visitors' structure. By halftime, the most serious threat on the Wanderers' goal was a shot from Wayne Brown in the 21st minute that thudded into the arms of Vedran Janjetovic.
Brown was one of those charged with replacing the creativity of Vargas, swapping positions constantly with Petratos, but the Englishman remains a source of frustration. He undoubtedly has ability, but too often drifts on the periphery of the game.
Petratos's deadballs offered the Jets some hope, but conceding the first goal was a blow against a side as well drilled as the Wanderers.
Jumpei Kusukami was a bright spark for the visitors from the start, and his skill led to the opening strike. Cutting in from the right he shimmied past two players into the box; though his run was blocked, Bridge met the loose ball with a sharp drive into the top corner from 12m out.
That was the ruthlessness missing from the Jets' game, and if anything it was Western Sydney who carved out the better openings, albeit in no great numbers. Raul Lolorente's fizzing cross from the left just evaded Alvaro Cejuo, and the latter also volleyed over at the far post.
The home side's mood was not improved by seeing Andrew Nabbout's clinical finish from Roy O'Donovan's through ball ruled out for a narrow off-side, the sort of marginal call where linesmen were supposed to let play go in the brave new world of video refereeing.
Finally though the Jets found a way to pierce the Wanderers rearguard. The ball was moved swiftly out to the right side then back in via a low cross from the substitute Joey Champness, finding O'Donovan close to goal. Though the Irish striker's shot was blocked by Janjetovic, Petratos followed up to level the score.
Suddenly the Jets had some ryhthm. Ivan Vujica's low cross was a fraction from Champness's head; then the latter wriggled brilliantly in the Wanderers box to make space but his cutback was desperately cleared by Janetovic.
By the end there was frustration on both sides, but none had earned the right to a winner.