AAP Soccer

Jets strike form amid A-League gloom

By AAP Newswire

While a dark cloud hung over the rest of the A-League season, Newcastle showed on Monday night there was reason to hope for brighter days.

The Jets defeated second-placed City 2-1 at McDonald Jones Stadium with top-shelf finishes from Steve Ugarkovic and Nick Fitzgerald, an impressive starting debut for Welshman Joe Ledley and a quality overall performance against one of the best sides in the league.

All while the competition was set to be suspended by Football Federation Australia on Tuesday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jets remained ninth, moving to 24 points, but they are just three points outside the top six with four matches to play.

Whether those games are played remains to be seen but the Jets' run under coach Carl Robinson of three wins, two draws and one loss pointed to better times ahead on the pitch for the Jets.

Robinson, who replaced the sacked Ernie Merrick in February, told his team to play with freedom and enjoy themselves in the match, given the uncertain times ahead.

"I said to the players in there, they've been a privilege to work with, coming into training every day they don't complain about nothing, they get on with it, their mentality is good and they want to learn," he said.

"All I've done is been the driving force to coach them and teach them, and put them into positions.

"It's them when they step across that white line that do the work and they deserve the credit."

Ugarkovic's long-range strike gave Newcastle victory and was the midfielder's fourth goal of the season - he managed just three across his previous three-and-a-half seasons.

"I keep pushing him in training every day, I say to him 'shoot' when he's at the top of the box," Robinson said.

"He's such a fit boy, he gets the most touches in my team.

"Everyone talks about Dimi (Petratos), who I think is a fantastic footballer as well in the final third area, but the pitch is split into three areas.

"It's the build-up, the creation zone and the final third.

"I needed a dictator in that area and I identified Stevie early on when I came in and everything has gone through him, which I think he's enjoyed and he's got more responsibility."