Photo: Joseph Mayers Photography
Photo: Joseph Mayers Photography
When the final whistle blew, much to the delight of the Novocastrian faithful, staff and the players the Jets were finally on the board; recording their first win and first clean sheet since November 2012.
The deadlock was broken courtesy of a 47th minute strike from international and returning Jet Angela Salem. Not only did it mark their first win in two seasons but their first ever W-League win over Melbourne Victory.
Seven years of waiting was over.
Adding all the more significance to the occasion, the Victory were last year’s champions and the Jets the wooden spooners and the champions were sporting two Newcastle stalwarts Gema Simon and Hannah Brewer.
There was a real perception that the Jets had recruited well with plenty experience added to complement the Emerging Jets. Some thought they were a chance to push the Victory, what was deemed to be the ultimate test of their credentials, but few would have expected such a result.
Most promisingly, the win was a deserved one with the Jets controlling large portions of the match before surviving the inevitable Victory late surge.
It was clear from the opening whistle that this Jets' side was a mere shadow of the ones who had struggled in recent seasons. They were able to keep possession, control the tempo and dictate terms for the first time in a long time.
So what was the key factor? Where was the game won? In a word, midfield.
Newcastle dominated the midfield battle from start to finish, and were able to create far more dangerous opportunities than that of Melbourne. Create enough and you will eventually score goals and the Jets could have been up by more than just one goal at various stages.
It was in the 47th minute that the Victory finally cracked.
Emily van Egmond come out on top in a tussle with former Jets teammate Hannah Brewer on halfway and, with time and space, played a well weighted through ball for Rhali Dobson on the left hand edge of the box. Dobson's cutback was initially missed by Tara Andrews but sat up nicely for Salem who burst into the box hitting a first time shot past a fully stretched Brianna Davey into the bottom left corner.
That Van Egmond and Salem were involved in the play was significant. The Jets look to have benefited from having three midfielders, Salem, Tori Huster and Van Egmond .who know each other’s game well and have forged a good combination together. Meanwhile Amber Neilson, in her first game back in the top flight for five years, slotted in seamlessly like she’d never left.
On the other hand Melbourne looked like a team that had not quite familiar with one another yet. The new line up from last season includes a new midfield three of Amy Jackson, Ella Mastrantonio and Hannah Brewer. With the Jets weight of numbers they were overwhelmed early and going forward had trouble connecting with an always lively Lisa De Vanna, Racheal Quigley and Beattie Goad.
Perhaps Victory just need a week or so for their combinations to click as well as their new internationals with two out of their three imports yet to hit Australian shores. The other Christine Nairn, a like for like replacement for Jess Fishlock, didn’t start the game but once she did the Washington Spirit midfielder immediately made an impact on and off the ball with her touch, work rate and vision.
Her injection into the game created some opportunities and game Melbourne another point of attack to work with, who previously only really looked like troubling the home side through one source, De Vanna. It was enough to suggest, that given time a combination between Nairn and De Vanna similar to that of Fishlock has the potential to develop.
Defensively both sides were solid with long serving Victory defensive teammates Steph Catley and Brianna Davey doing well to marshal the Victory's new look unit, particularly as they were seeing more ball than they would have liked.
Newcastle’s new look back four of Georgia Yeomen-Dale, Hayley Crawford, Ashley Spina and Katherine Reynolds also held strong, restricting the Melbourne to mostly having long range shots from outside the area. Yeoman-Dale, in particular, matched pace and wits with De Vanna to keep her at bay when the striker threatened to win the game for the visitors.
As a result, Claire Coelho rarely troubled and Newcastle went on to record their first clean sheet in 18 matches.
The win was the perfect start for the home side and will have the rest of the competition on edge that a trip to the Hunter in search of three points will be a tough ask this season.
The Jets will be looking for back to back wins for the first time since 2011/12 season when the face fellow Round one winners Perth Glory at Magic Park next Saturday from 3pm.