I imagine that having an interim coach is much like having a substitute teacher or a babysitter. You can be naughty.
“We’ll have a go and hopefully get a win,” says interim Newcastle coach Craig Deans pre-game, of his first week in charge this season. It’s a good week to have a go with Abdiel Arroyo back for Newcastle, Sydney’s Rhyan Grant and Luke Brattan suspended and a weaker back line than the Sky Blues are used to.
Sydney kicks off and there’s shaky play from both sides. We know that Sydney typically starts slow so if Newcastle is going to strike they have to do it early. Early indications are that Newcastle wants it more – they just don’t have the better game when they’ve got it. Arroyo nearly gets a header goal from a Matty Millar cross in the third minute. Steven Ugarkovic takes a bash at goal a couple of minutes later but it lacks firepower.
Sydney’s Paulo Retre spots Harry Van Der Saag running down the line and floors the ball to him but it’s a much too easy save for Newcastle keeper Glen Moss.
It takes Sydney nearly ten minutes to string two runs together. Then the Jets lose focus for a minute and the Milos Ninkovic, Kosta Barbarouses, Adam Le Fondre attacking triptych bears fruit once again for Sydney with an easy Alfie goal that looks like a training drill.
I want it to be competitive. The Jets keep leaving Sydney unmarked on the left so when a high ball reaches a wide attacker he has free reign to cut it straight in front of goal while the Jets all scramble in defence.
Then 21 minutes in Ugarkovic equalises! Alfie pushed a Newcastle player and the Jets played the advantage really quickly, with Arroyo feeding Ugarkovic a really lovely ball for a really lovely goal straight into the top bins.
Dimi Petratos gets a yellow card on Harry Van Der Saag for a chase and a push in the back. It’s about ten yards outside the box, pretty central, and Baumjohann sails an easy catch straight to Glen Moss. Baumjohann’s having a quiet game tonight, maybe missing Luke Brattan. His puppy dog face definitely looks sad, or maybe I’m just projecting.
Sydney steps up but so does Newcastle. Retre gives a blinder of a pass to Ninkovic who almost beats Glen Moss. It feels like Sydney has a goal in them this side of halftime, and though my feelings usually lead me well astray, this time they are correct. Nice one, heart. Sydney’s left is left unmarked, nobody’s on Ninko, and this would be fine if he didn’t get the ball and give it directly to Kosta Barbarouses to score at the near post.
I’m picking Newcastle to answer them soon though and I think it’s because they don’t look dejected in response.
A lovely turn from Arroyo to Jason Hoffman finds Nick Fitzgerald who nearly gets it past Andrew Redmayne but takes him down instead. Five minutes before injury time leaves Redders with not a lot of urgency to mend quickly.
Nobody’s marking Joel King, maybe because nobody really knows who he is, but I think Newcastle would find it easier if they did. Bobby Burns has been working double time on their left, but he does have the added motivation of finding himself in front of the Cove as he does so. A penalty on Ben Kantarovski nearly bears fruit before the halftime whistle, and a series of shoves hints at a next level second half.
Second half sees a strong start from Sydney who looks strategically reset.
Nikolai Topor-Stanley gives Alfie a spirited nudge and while we’re distracted Sydney nearly scores. A string of good chances and yellow cards follows, then Arroyo hits the crossbar before getting swapped for Angus Thurgate. He probably should’ve scored there.
The Jets are playing the long game. Sydney’s playing a quiet game. Ryan McGowan wakes up and takes a cracking run up the midfield that leads to a short interval of hot potato but is ultimately unfruitful. Glen Moss goes down with a calf injury and back up goalie Lewis Italiano pulls on his gloves.
It’s getting scrappy now. Lachie Jackson fouls Alfie and the free kick is within range of Italiano. Baumjohann takes it and Jackson heads it away and up the field.
I know we’re an hour in but I’m just now realising that Newcastle is last on the ladder. They’re not playing like it. Craig Deans is going for gold. Or maybe just a move up to 10th place. He makes his third change with striker Sheppard replacing defender Cantarovski.
Ninko gets subbed for Michael Zullo who pushes Van Der Saag to the midfield. Jordi Swibel replaces Alfie in the 84th minute. Newcastle wins a corner but it’s easily defended. Then Newcastle appeals for: Andrew Redmayne who picks up the ball almost outside the area; a handball in the box; time wasting from Zullo but it turns out he really has dislocated his finger and you can tell because Ryan McGowan gives a really good face and doesn’t want to stand near him.
In the end Sydney does what they need to do to get the win, but it was never a comfortable lead, and Newcastle can feel comfortable about that.
By Kelly SImpson