The Newcastle Jets scrapped and fought hard through to the final minutes to steal the three points and move into the A-League Women top four.
COVID-19 forced its hand, putting the match behind closed doors. Both head coaches in Ash Wilson and Gemma Lewis were able to name sides with minimal changes, after a weekend marred by positive tests among playing groups.
Sophie Harding and Marie Dolvik returned to the Jets’ starting eleven while Tiana Jaber kept her spot following her impressive performance against Western Sydney Wanderers. Wellington named an unchanged side in what was set to be a very important clash for both sides.
Throughout the majority of the first half, the Jets were unable to convert countless chances that they saw gifted to them.
Defensive errors from Cass Davis and Lucy Johnson – who lost the ball numerous times in the midfield – allowed the Nix to slowly start creeping back into the game late into the first half with Kelli Denise Brown and Ava Pritchard both finding good opportunities to score.Embed from Getty Images
It was shot totals and positive possession dominance from Newcastle in the opening first half, but neither side was able to break the deadlock before heading into the sheds.
Despite the bright start, Newcastle was unable to convert early on despite amassing well over 20 shots on goal by the 80th minute. It took a first A-League Women goal from Gemma House to finally register a score late on.
Ruthlessness nearly costs Newcastle Jets
24-year-old Dolvik was found countless times in the first half, but she was unable to convert the chances her teammates provided her. She was played in behind from Davis, but her shot did not trouble Nix goalkeeper Lily Alfeld.
The youthful Wellington frustrated Newcastle by forcing it to play long over the backline, a stark contrast from the last meeting between these two sides.
When they met two weeks ago, the Jets were able to cut through the midfield and use the strong presence of Tara Andrews to bounce the wide players of Dolvik and Harding.Embed from Getty Images
It was another dominating but disappointing attacking stanza for the Jets that kept them level after an hour of play on the Central Coast.
Half opportunities fell to Elizabeth Eddy and Andrews, but Alfeld stood strong in goal, somehow keeping the scores level early on.
Wave after wave of Newcastle attacks finally saw it breach the Wellington defence, but credit needs to be given to the ‘home side’.
It was a determined defence who kept out Newcastle for over 80 minutes, compared to the last meeting when they had conceded four goals by the 80th minute mark.
House opened her account in the A-League Women when fellow midfielder Davis had her shot blocked by Alfeld.
A very late goal was completely what Newcastle deserved as it moved into the top four, now just two points behind Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory.
An unimpressive perfomance from veteran Matilda
Pinned down in the first half thanks to a very impressive tactical set-up from Wellington coach Lewis, Emily van Egmond was forced into mistakes while under pressure from Wellington defenders who pressed in numbers while the creative midfielder was in possession or trying to find a teammate.
She was unable to rectify her poor first-half performance in the second half, still clearly bothered by the press of the opposition.Embed from Getty Images
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Despite a change in the midfield for Newcastle that saw van Egmond more able to receive the ball in central areas, the ability to dictate the tempowhile under little to no pressure still was not enough for her to turn her match around.
The Matilda very nearly scored a pearler late on, hitting the crossbar, which promoted another shot from Davis and finally the opener for Newcastle from House.
It was not a scintillating performance from van Egmond as she looks to stay in the plans of Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson leading into the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
Youth impressive for Wellington
Wellington has only just entered the A-League Women competition this season, but despite putting together a very inexperienced and young squad, some players have burst onto the scene and been able to provide themselves with a solid basis within the league.
Goalkeeper Lily Alfeld was particularly impressive, making a string of top draw saves that unfortunately led to the late opener for Newcastle, but the goal was through no fault of her own.
An impressive game plan held Newcastle scoreless for the majority of the match but in the end, the experience and levelheadedness of the squad brought the Jets the well-deserved three points.
Wellington Phoenix’s coaching group can be proud of their team’s performance so far, and they will look to grab their first point of the season when facing Sydney FC on Thursday.
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