Jets claim F3 derby honours over the Mariners
Marquee man Emile Heskey found the net for the second straight game as Newcastle Jets defeated Central Coast Mariners 2-1 in a pulsating F3 A-League derby at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.
The Jets survived a thrilling finish after Patrick Zwaanswijk looked to have earned the Mariners a share of the points when he headed home in the sixth minute of stoppage time, only for the assistant referee to controversially rule him offside.
Ryan Griffiths gave the home side a fourth-minute lead when former England striker Heskey was clipped by Michael McGlinchey in the box after he had pinched a poorly played pass from the Mariners defence.
Griffiths sent Mariners goalkeeper Mathew Ryan the wrong way from the spot, and it stayed that way through to half-time.
Heskey then gave his side some breathing space on 61 minutes, but James Virgili deserved all the credit after the youngster went past both Pedj Bojic and Zwaanswijk on a mazy run before setting up the ex-Liverpool front man for the easiest of finishes from close range.
Bernie Ibini netted what turned out to be a consolation goal for the Mariners in the 72nd minute after he was on the end of a McGlinchey cutback after striker Daniel McBreen had won the initial header.
Jets keeper Mark Birighitti had no chance as Ibini tapped in from the edge of the six yard box.
The match was a typically feisty local derby with a series of niggly fouls throughout the contest, referee Ben Williams issuing nine yellow cards.
Jets midfielder Ruben Zadkovich was lucky not to be given his marching orders after a cheap foul in the 52nd minute sparked a melee.
Players from both sides had to be separated as tempers threatened to boil over, with Williams doing well to contain the trouble.
"A good derby, a lot of action, and I was very happy with our performance overall," Mariners coach Graham Arnold said.
"Our combinations, our movement was first class. So if we continue to play like that, and we will do, then I can’t see why we won’t be successful again this year.
Arnold was reluctant to be drawn too far into the debate that will undoubtedly follow in the comings days in regards to the performance of the match officials. "The three incidents that happened in the first five minutes turned the match," he said.
"It's disappointing but penalties come and go, and you get good decisions, bad decisions throughout the year.
"But as I just said to the players, I judge the team on their performance and the performance was fantastic."