The Newcastle Jets have kept their slim Hyundai A-League finals hopes alive with a spirited 2-0 win over the Adelaide Reds at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
Goals to Joel Griffiths and likely Golden Boot winner Adam Taggart was enough to earn Newcastle all three points in a torrid encounter that saw Adelaide dominate possession but unable to convert their advantage into points.
The win sees Newcastle draw level with Sydney FC on 36 points and the Jets faithful will be hoping Perth Glory can pull off an upset win over the Sky Blues when they clash in Sydney on Sunday afternoon.
Even then the Jets need Sydney to lose by two goals or more to get through to the finals on goal difference, but for now the Newcastle will be content with a fighting win over one of the form side's in the competition and a fitting send off for marquee Emile Heskey and retiring talisman Michael Bridges.
The match started in humid conditions and the visitors held the ascendancy early with Fabio Ferreira and Marcelo Carrusca signalling their intent with sharp taken half chances on goal.
The Jets fought their way back into the match with their first foray on goal seeing David Carney whip a ball to the near post where Adelaide defender Nigel Boogaard do well to trap the ball before Heskey could get a site on goal.
With some momentum behind them Newcastle took the lead with a well-taken set piece. Carney's swinging corner found a flying Griffiths near the penalty spot and he sent his header piercing into the top corner of the net for a 1-0 lead after 22 minutes.
The home side continued to threaten with Samuel Gallaway blazing a half-cleared corner over the crossbar before Taggart and Heskey combined to free Griffiths down the right side. He squared the ball back into the box for Taggart who fired his pressured shot just over the target.
The Reds had some chances of their own with Boogaard firing a header from a Carrusca corner just wide of the target.
Bruce Djite then played a lovely ball through for Sergio Cirio who had the ball snatched off his feet by a lovely sliding tackle from Josh Brillante just as he was about to shoot from the edge of the six-yard box as the Jets went to the interval leading 1-0.
Adelaide made a two changes at the break with Jeronimo coming on for Zullo and Awer Mabil taking over on the left wing for Cameron Watson and they sparked the Reds into attack with a number of promising raids on the Newcastle goal, but they were thwarted by some scrambling Newcastle defence.
Adelaide went agonisingly close to levelling the scores when Cirio got in behind the defence and sent a sizzling ball to the back post where a sliding Jeronimo just missed getting a tap into an open net.
For the most part the Jets defended deep and launched some dangerous attacks on the counter. Griffiths sent a lovely curling ball into the box where a diving Taggart just sent his header over the crossbar in the 68th minute before Newcastle created the best chance of the second half.
Heskey released Griffiths and he played a one-two with Taggart before firing from point-blank range. The shot was parried away by Galekovic and the ball feel for Griffiths to have the follow-up shot that was touched over the bar in a remarkable reflex save from the Reds custodian.
Adelaide continued to play through the tiring Jets with Cirio once again using his pace to get in behind the home defence but he could only fire his shot into the arms of Newcastle goal-keeper Ben Kennedy.
The made two substitutions midway through the second half with Nick Ward coming on for Heskey and Bridges coming on for Griffiths.
It was the Englishman who made the biggest impact when he helped seal the win for the Jets in the final minute of the match. Carney sent a looping cross into the box for Bridges at the back post. He headed the ball back across goal for Taggart to poke home his 16th goal of the season.
Bridges almost had the fairytale finish to his career when Ward played a ball through for the English veteran to fire a vicious shot on goal that was palmed away by Galekovic, with the Reds' goal-keeper just managing to regain possession before the ball bounced over the goal-line.
Newcastle continue to bomb forward in attack in injury time but could not find another goal and they had to be satisfied with a 2-0 victory and the chance of still playing finals football should results go their way.
Newcastle Jets 2 (Griffiths 21, Taggart 90)
Adelaide United 0
Crowd 11, 226 at Hunter Stadiumcomments