THE NEWCASTLE Jets might start calling Scully Park their lucky ground after they defeated the Central Coast Mariners 2-1 in yesterday’s Northern Inland Football A League Challenge.
They also beat Brisbane Roar in the same fixture last year and, after yesterday’s success, Jets coach Gary Van Egmond said Scully Park was probably the best ground they are likely to play on, and better than their home surface.
In a huge nod to the ground staff, Mariners coach Graham Arnold also agreed, admitting that it is a better surface than Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford and the Sydney fields.
The Jets continued their run of good pre-season form, beating an under-strength Mariners side 2-1 after a Craig Goodwin brace in the first half.
Jets James Virgili and Scott Neville took full advantage of their younger and inexperienced opposition in the first half, finding plenty of space down the right flank and keeping Mariners keeper Liam Reddy busy.
Jets captain Ruben Zadkovich was a force in the middle. With Michael Bridges, they directed the side with poise and precision that comes with experience.
The Mariners, on the other hand, were blooding some of their National Youth League players, some of whom had never played at the top level before.
Big Mariners centre back Brett Griffiths found the net with a powerful header to make it 2-1 but the Jets then dropped their midfield back and the young Mariners struggled to penetrate.
Van Egmond was pleased with the intent shown in the first half but was unhappy that the side had let a goal in from a set play.
“Last season we let in too many set-piece goals and have been working on that in defence,” Van Egmond said.
“We recognised and employed good tactics in the first half with attacks down the fringe but were a bit complacent in the second.”
Both coaches not only love the playing surface but also the idea of bringing the A League to regional areas.
“It is brilliant in Tamworth – there is a large base of fans and young players here,” Arnold said.
“We should be doing these things more.”
Earlier in the day, Northern Inland Football’s Under 12 and 13 squads combined to tackle North Coast Under 13s in what became a nil-all curtainraiser.
NIF coach Steve Carter said it was good experience for the boys to play before such a game.
“Having the opportunity to play here (Scully Park) was great,” Carter said.
“The ground was absolutely beautiful and our boys had a ball.”
The side drew nil-all with North Coast in what is their last games with their NIF teams.
Seven NIF juniors are also in Coffs Harbour preparing for the FFA National Youth Championships for Boys.
Jack Diebold, Ben Gamlin, Will Menz and Harrison Taylor are all part of the NNSW Country Under 13s while Sam Fulwood, Cody McCann and Brodie Patterson are in the NNSW Country Under 14s being coached by Armidale’s Andy Lennon.
Lennon believes his side will be competitive.
“To be honest, I don’t come over here to get results, it’s more about the quality of football they play,” Lennon said.
“I try to improve them and let them showcase their talents to the coaches. As long as they play good football I don’t mind.
“This is a tough tournament. They will come up against some good players and sides.”