NEWCASTLE JETS 1
BRISBANE ROAR 0
THE NEWCASTLE Jets scored a confidence-boosting 1-nil win over the reigning A-League champions at Scully Park in Tamworth on Saturday night, but the real winners were local sports fans.
It was an entertaining pre-season friendly, billed as the Northern Inland Challenge, in front of a crowd of about 2000 people.
In cold conditions the Jets and the Brisbane Roar gave the fans plenty of exciting moments, but only one goal, a first-half effort from Jets striker Ryan Griffiths.
Newcastle had the better of the first half but it took a corner kick that deflected in the box and found the feet of Griffiths for an easy tap-in to finally get the Jets on the board.
Brisbane lifted its intensity in the second half and almost scored on several occasions.
In fact Matt Jurman claimed a goal after he headed at the far post and forced Jets keeper Mark Birighitti to punch the ball off the goal line.
The Roar thought the ball crossed the line but it was denied.
Soon after striker Besart Berisha had the best of his chances but it was saved again and the equaliser never came.
“Overall it was an entertaining game for the public,” Jets coach Gary van Egmond said.
“At times Brisbane controlled the game and at times we controlled the game. “But in the end we were happy not to concede and we managed a goal from a set play.
“So we are really happy.”
Roar coach Rado Vidosic wasn’t worried about the result.
He saw enough to be happy about.
“I was very happy with the performance,” he said.
“The only downside was conceding a goal from a set play.
“We created a lot of opportunities and totally dominated the second half.”
Vidosic said the Roar are a little behind the Jets in their preparations for the upcoming season but saw no signs of fatigue in his players, which suggests their fitness is good.
He gave special mention to new Japanese signing Yuji Takahashi, who played most of the second half despite only arriving in Australia on Friday.
“He was very composed on the ball,” Vidosic said.
“I was surprised, but very happy.
“But overall we had our tactical play and that went very well.
“Our pressure was excellent.
“That caused them trouble in their build-up.
“We also had to deal with their pressure and I think we did that quite comfortably.”
The majority of the crowd was cheering for the Jets and the win was well received.
But it’s just another step towards the season proper for the players and staff, especially those trying to force their way into the starting side.
“It’s another piece of the puzzle,” van Egmond said.
“We’ll get ready to play Sydney next week now.
“I thought Josh Mitchell was very good for us.
“He really stood up.”
It’s the second time Tamworth has hosted a Jets pre-season game, but it was six years between drinks.
Local football authorities are hoping it won’t be another six years before they return, and the coach agrees.
“It’s good to bring the game regionally,” van Egmond said.
“It’s something that should be done more often, especially in the pre-season.
“Hopefully we can come back and do it more often.”