NEW year, same old problems for the Jets.
Newcastle made a forgettable start to 2013, going down 2-1 to Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park on New Year's Day.
It was the ninth time this season the Jets have conceded two or more goals.
After a bright start to the campaign, they have now lost four of their past five games and sit just three points above cellar dwellers Sydney FC, whom they beat 2-1 on December 22.
Their goal difference, which could be crucial leading into the finals, dropped to minus nine, and they have leaked 28 goals at an average of two a game.
The Jets, who were given a pre-match talk by West Indian cricket legend Sir Viv Richards, again paid the price for defensive errors.
Golgol Mebrahtu opened the Heart account in the sixth minute after the Jets turned over possession playing out from the back.
Ryan Griffiths equalised with a penalty in the 18th minute.
But the hosts regained the lead seven minutes later through a Josip Tadic spot kick after a contentious penalty against Jets keeper Mark Birighitti.
Birighitti lost the ball after he rushed off his line and collided with Heart defender Patrick Gerhardt. As the keeper fell to the ground he grabbed at the foot of Jonatan Germano, who had pounced on the loose ball.
As well as pointing to the spot, referee Chris Beath issued the keeper with a yellow card.
Furious Jets coach Gary van Egmond remonstrated with the referee over the decision as they went down the tunnel at half-time.
‘‘From my point of view I thought Biris had the ball,’’ van Egmond said after the game.
‘‘Then there was a collision and Biris didn’t have the ball.’’
Birighitti was adamant it should have been his free kick.
‘‘I did get a knock, but at the end of the day the referee made a decision,’’ he said.
‘‘I thought it was free kick on my behalf.
‘‘He did make contact with me, but it is just not going right for us at the moment.’’
Although infuriated by the call, van Egmond did not use it as an excuse for the defeat.
‘‘First half we were second to the ball and didn’t compete as well as Heart did,’’ the coach said.
‘‘You talk about possession and playing out, but you have to turn up and win the battle to earn the right to play.
‘‘If we start winning the ball early on, get the momentum of the game and get on the front foot, you don’t get those sort of decisions.’’
Van Egmond was almost at a loss to explain the Jets’ defensive woes. They have not kept a clean sheet since a 1-0 victory over Adelaide United in round 23 last season.
They take on high-flyers Adelaide United at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.
‘‘There is personnel you look at, there is what we do as far as our defensive shape is concerned,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘We talk about that consistently. We talk about when to press, when not to press ... we have been through that scenario since pre-season.
‘‘It is not only about the defensive shape.
‘‘If you are going to play a ball into the middle of the park – a 25-metre ball on the deck – and it doesn’t hit the target, and that person can’t turn and face and you lose possession, there is a good chance you are going to get countered from there.
‘‘They are the silly options we are taking and we should know better.’’
Yesterday’s loss followed a 3-2 defeat to Melbourne Victory at the same venue on Friday night.
The Jets poured a lot, physically and mentally, into that match, but van Egmond said it should not have contributed to the lame first half against the Heart.
‘‘Against Victory I thought we played particularly well across the whole of the game,’’ he said.
‘‘Today I thought we weren’t in it. Not that we weren’t looking to play, we just didn’t compete, especially our defensive line.
‘‘The Heart travelled all the way to Wellington and came back.
‘‘I don’t think there are any excuses for us.
‘‘We stayed down in Melbourne and didn’t have the travel fatigue.
‘‘From that perspective, I don’t think there is anything for us to whine about.’’
The win ended a three-game losing streak for the Heart and lifted them off the bottom of the table.
‘‘I told the boys we had to win, no matter how we played,’’ Heart coach John Aloisi said.
‘‘Sometimes you have to grind out a result. We have not been able to do that all year and today we did.’’
The contest was six minutes old when Heart captain Fred pounced on a wayward pass from Connor Chapman and laid off to Josip Tadic.
The striker burst clear and as he approached the penalty area played in Mebrahtu, who slipped a shot through the legs of Birighitti.
‘‘We knew we could catch them in certain areas,’’ Aloisi said.
‘‘We did that with the first goal. That was something we worked on during the week.’’
The Jets were back on level terms 12 minutes later.
Redmayne, making his starting debut in place of the dropped Clint Bolton, was late coming out and collected Ryan Griffiths, who had run on to a nicely weighted ball from Emile Heskey.
Griffiths dusted himself off and sent Redmayne the wrong way.
Jets defender Scott Neville aggravated a hamstring injury and is in doubt for the clash against Adelaide.