Newcastle Jets 1-1 Melbourne Victory
Beginning their run of three games in eight days, Melbourne Victory took a point off the Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Andrew Nabbout cancelled out an own goal from Mitch Nichols to restore parity at the 50th minute.
Nabbout’s second half equalizer epitomised what a classic Melbourne Victory goal looked like. You’ve heard (often) from me how Victory’s attacking system has fallen short, but this was a glimpse of how good it can be. A sweeping counter attack to race up the other end in the space of ten seconds involving Kosta Barbarouses, James Troisi and Nabbout was all it took for Victory to make the game alive again.
Can Mark Milligan anchor the midfield alone?
Having missed this match after a setback on his crook knee at Thursday’s training session, this can’t be fully answered yet. But there were signs that the answer will be no. Rashid Mahazi was the only defensive midfielder, with Mitch Nichols and Gui Finkler around him, but it didn’t quite work as Victory often had only Mahazi tracking back on the counter with the Jets wingers running at him.
Too much pressure was placed on a first-year player to cover extra kilometers and take on a role meant for two players. I’ve called for an extra attacking midfielder next to Milligan at the expense of Leigh Broxham but, based on this evidence, that may have been misguided.
Could have won?
The visitors did have moments to make the three points theirs but, yup, you guessed it, missed them. However, if you attack enough, you likely will score but Victory may have just fallen short in that as they recorded just three shots on target. On the plus side, Nabbout’s game was impressive for most part and should retain his starting spot, fitness pending, his willingness to shoot is a positive.
Sloppy in possession?
This is where Kevin Muscat’s side let down, although not as guilty as their hosts were in this respect. A feature of Nichols’ game is his work-rate and willingness to attack at all times, as well as his first touch letting him down. This resulted in Mahazi and the defence being placed in danger. The errors made and forward passes missed resulted in not making full impact of the returning and quick forward, Archie Thompson.
'A point’s a point'
With the missing personnel in this match and being on the road against a reasonable side, Muscat’s post-game comments about pride in his players and praise for his side were reasonable. The defence, despite some nervy moments and the handball from Pablo Contreras, did its job when it needed to. If Victory can take more results from the road, the better off they will be.
Craig Goodwin had a serviceable night on set-piece duties throughout the 90 minutes, leading to a goal just before half-time. His free-kick from the right flank was aimed at the penalty mark, Nichols had no control over what he was doing as he was marking Jacob Pepper, leaving it to bobble off his chest and past Nathan Coe. Own goals can be forced when or if the ball is placed in the right area, Goodwin did just that.
May have gone unnoticed, but he was one of the Jets better players on the night. Making just his second start of the season, Heskey combined well with those around and was always a presence to try help bring his forwards/midfielders into game. He will be better for the run, and can be a vital weapon once the lead in to finals begins.
Should have won?
Much of their attacking forays were huff and puff, of their twenty-two attempts on goal only four were on target. They did have enough of the ball in attacking areas but couldn’t find their way through as they turned over the ball too often and too easily.
Out of their comfort zone?
Being at home against a side that was compact at times, Newcastle had to set the pace and attack their opponents. They didn’t look comfortable doing that and were understandably worried about get caught out going the other way. Gary van Egmond’s move to revert to a counter-attacking style had paid off in the last month/six weeks, but they weren’t allowed to do it this time around.
Griffiths in, but Burns out?
Nathan Burns has returned to Incheon United to discuss his future, Newcastle is hopeful of keeping him. This situation comes as the club welcomes back club favorite Joel Griffiths, and how he fits in with the incumbents in Emile Heskey and Adam Taggart will be something to watch for. He’ll add experience and depth to the squad, and will no doubt play the role of pantomime villain quite nicely.