Wellington Phoenix 0-1 Newcastle Jets
By Ben Gilby (27/12/21)
Above: Newcastle Jets celebrate Jemma House’s first-ever A-League Women’s goal, which finally clinched the three points on the New South Wales Central Coast. Photo: Getty Images via Newcastle Jets.
Newcastle Jets gained their second win of the season against a Wellington Phoenix side who would have deserved a point from the game for their efforts.
In a match played in wet conditions in Gosford and behind closed doors due to Covid concerns, the Jets got out of the blocks quickly and within the opening minute, Maria Markussen showed that she was in dangerous form immediately as she got clear down the left, cut inside, beat Zoe McMeeken, and get a shot away which Mackenzie Barry got something onto as the effort went behind for a corner.
Importantly, Wellington got their offensive game going early and benefitted from a great press in transition as Grace Wisnewski won the ball back in midfield and set Alyssa Whinham through. The 18-year-old, who joined the club on scholarship forms, drove through the midfield but was not able to get a shot away. Whinham’s start in this game coupled with her efforts against Sydney last time out, identify her as yet another excellent Kiwi talent. She has pace and an ability to drop the shoulder and ghost past attempted tackles. Once she gets more experience playing at this level, she has all the makings of being a star.
Phoenix were giving Emily van Egmond plenty of attention, but the Matildas star was able to get through and got a shot away outside the box to the left of centre which just skidded wide of the left post on the wet surface.
With 13 minutes gone, Wellington’s energetic press forced a mistake. Taren King played a backpass to her goalkeeper Georgia Boric. The ball was returned to King who played an effort towards Lucy Johnson but the midfielder was dispossessed by Chloe Knott. The Phoenix midfielder played a pass back to Wisnewski. She returned the favour which allowed Knott to get a shot away from just over 20 yards which Boric gathered.
The game was falling into an end-to-end pattern. There were acres of space in midfield which allowed the likes of Markussen, van Egmond, Wisnewski, and Whinham to create, but all too often the final passes were below par.
With the half-hour mark passed, Jets were finding it hard to maintain any momentum and Phoenix were competing well in midfield. Whilst the New Zealanders were not creating the number of chances that Newcastle had, their organization and coherent approach play was a real positive.
Whilst Newcastle’s block defence was keeping Phoenix largely at bay, their attacking press needed an injection of pace.
Ten minutes before the break, Ava Pritchard was in possession centrally, 25 yards out from goal. Her squared ball found Kelli Brown, who was unmarked. The striker’s shot landed in Boric’s midriff.
Phoenix’s confidence was growing and Pritchard dummied her way past van Egmond in a display that brought loud cheers from the Kiwi bench.
Jets’ frustration grew as half-time approached. Cassidy Davis slightly fortuitously played a long pass forward which fell into the path of Markussen. The Norwegian advanced to a one of one battle with Lily Alfeld, but her shot lacked power.
One further chance came Newcastle’s way before the break when Tiana Jaber pulled a cross into the box from the right towards Tara Andrews who had made a great run across the box which wasn’t picked up, but the Newcastle-born star couldn’t quite get her head on it.
Jets came out firing and pressed high. Alfeld was forced into a save within 20 seconds of the re-start as van Egmond pounced after a poor attempted clearance and fired in an effort from the edge of the box which the Canterbury-born goalkeeper saved.
Moments later, Sophie Harding got away from Kate Taylor down the left and played in a teasing low cross which McMeeken did well to deal with at the far post. From the follow-up, Alfeld had to get down quickly to deny Andrews from close range.
Phoenix worked hard to ride out the storm and the league’s newcomers were able to gain more possession as the clock ticked towards the hour mark
There were chances at both ends in quick succession. First, Harding had a free header from a corner which narrowly cleared the bar. Then, McMeeken got down the right and found Whinham whose slide-rule return pass saw McMeeken’s effort smothered by Boric before the ball bounced across the box where Knott’s ankle was tapped by Jaber, but the referee saw nothing in it, and play continued.
With ten minutes left, Newcastle came close twice in quick succession. First, sub-Kirsty Fenton fed Markussen on the left. Her cut back found the Liz Eddy, but her powerful effort went wide of the right-hand post. Then the American teed up van Egmond for a typical long-range effort which cannoned off the right-hand post
Yet, it was a case of third time lucky as Davis’ effort from outside the box was pushed onto the bar by Alfeld and fell right into the path of House who followed up at the far post to slot the ball home.
Eddy could have doubled the Jets lead immediately afterward as she saw a shot fly narrowly over the bar. Despite continued hard work, Phoenix couldn’t fashion a reply and Newcastle saw out the remaining minutes comfortably.
Jets match-winner Jemma House was understandably delighted post-game when she spoke about scoring her first goal in the competition: “It kind of feels surreal, but that monkey is finally off my back now. It’s taken a while so it’s nice to have that done now and it’s nice to have a winning goal to my name.
“Watching from the sidelines before I came on, there were a lot of opportunities and we could have finished the game a long time ago. It was nice to get it done.”
Speaking about the game, Phoenix midfielder Chloe Knott saw the positives for her side: “We fared a lot better than the last time we played them, we stuck to the game plan. We wanted to be aggressive and force them to play with little time.”
Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis had mixed emotions afterward: “That game was like chalk and cheese for us. We were competitive in this game. We were struggling to even be competitive the last time we played them.
“It’s one of those things where I’m stoked of the turnaround between games and the performances, and the girls really stepped up. But conceding in the late stages of the game is always a hard one to swallow, especially when I think we had moments to nick it.
“As much as this hurts we can’t sit here and dwell on it and mourn it because actually, we need to take the positives, take the learnings and move on. This is the A-League, we’re in a season, we have to carry on and we have to push forward.”
Teams: WELLINGTON PHOENIX: Alfeld, Vosper, Taylor, Barry, McMeeken, Gomez, Brown, Wisnewski, Whinham, Pritchard, Knott. Substitutes: Edwards (GK), Jale, Kramer, Martin, Walker.
NEWCASTLE JETS: Boric, Eddy, Brewer, King, Jaber, Davis, van Egmond, Johnson, Andrews, Markussen, Harding. Substitutes: Brodigan, Coelho (GK), Fenton, Franco, House.
Scorer: House 82′.
Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.
Attendance: Behind Closed Doors.
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