Newcastle Head Coach Ernie Merrick has praised goalkeeper Glen Moss, as well as his team’s fighting-spirt, after the Jets were able to hold on and record their first win of the 2019/20 A-League season with a 1-0 win over Western United on Saturday night.
Seizing control of the game in the first half, the Jets were able to take a deserved lead in the 36th minute of action at Kardinia Park when Angus Thurgate, receiving a pass from defender Matt Millar, laid the ball back to Dimi Petratos.
Turning and charging toward the United goal, the 19-year-old was then able to run onto a perfectly weighted pass scythed through the defensive line by Petratos and slide a shot past Filip Kurto to make it 1-0.
Nonetheless, the Jets’ opening half dominance was not to last as United, once again spurned into action after conceding first, threw themselves forward in desperate search of an equaliser in the second half.
With brilliant midfielder Alessandro Diamanti a constant threat from any position on the park and the United frontline led by Besart Berisha and Scott McDonald pressing hard – the Jets at one point having their lead maintained only thanks to VAR picking up a Berisha offside in the build-up to a Josh Risdon goal – Moss was frequently called into action.
The 36-year-old Kiwi, though, proved up to the task of defending the lead.
“To be honest, I thought Glenn Moss had a lot to do with getting that result,” Merrick said following the win.
“I thought he was outstanding, some of the saves he pulled off were incredible.
“I thought we really dominated the first half. Towards the end there, of course, Western United threw a lot of players forward, and that happened against Perth Glory last week and we couldn’t cope and today we coped with it so it’s a credit to the boys.
“I think the real issue is finishing our opportunities in the penalty box. If we could score a couple more, take a couple more of our chances we wouldn’t have to fight with our backs to the wall.
“And this week it was just a bit more desperation in the box when it counted.”
Thurgate’s winning goal represented just the second time the youngster had scored an A-League goal for the Hunter-based club, the last occasion coming when he fired home against Western Sydney in round 24 of the 2018/19 season.
Making his second start of the season, Thurgate’s deployment in a central, attacking role caught many off guard but Merrick explained that it was part of a deliberate ploy to attack the United back-three.
“Most people thought that we’d put Angus on the wing on the right-hand side and we’d put Jason [Hoffman] central,” the Jets’ gaffer explained.
“But what we did was we played two side players that came in late in Jason and Nick [Fitzgerald].
“We dropped Angus into a sort of false nine position, similar to Dimi [Petratos], who is a number ten and it worked a treat in the first half.
“Our formation was unusual, and it caught them out. I don’t think we could do that every week, but I thought it worked against a back three and I really thought we dominated the first 45 and maybe up to 60 in the second half we did well.
“Angus is a Port Macquarie lad, so he’s virtually a local in Newcastle. His best position is probably an eight but we’ve got Matt Ridenton, Ben Kanarovski, Steve Urgakovic, Pat Langlois and a couple of really good number tens so we’ve had to throw him into a forward position.
“It’s not his ideal position but he always seems to get in goalscoring positions and he’s a very hard-working player. He’s one of these players you can always throw them on at the start or off the bench and he’ll do a job or you.
“An amazing number of times he gets into goalscoring positions. Probably could have got a couple tonight in that first half but he scored and that’s the difference.”