Newcastle Jets 0 Adelaide United 0
THE Newcastle Jets recorded their first clean sheet in 10 months but it was not enough to secure a much-needed upset win over A-League high flyers Adelaide United at Hunter Stadium.
The home side overcame the loss of marquee striker Emile Heskey to a quadriceps injury at half time to dominate the clash.
"It was not a monkey off our back it was a gorilla," said Jets coach Gary van Egmond.
"It was hanging over us. It is a good feeling to be rid of it.
"It's great for the players to get some real confidence from keeping that clean sheet and creating a number of chances."
However, they were unable to come up with a winner, with Ryan Griffiths, Adam Taggart and James Virgili all denied by Reds keeper Eugene Galekovic.
At the other end, Adelaide danger men Dario Vidosic, Bruce Djite and Iain Ramsay were left frustrated by a resolute Jets defence.
It was the first time Sam Gallaway, Taylor Regan, Connor Chapman and Craig Goodwin had played as a back four.
The average age of the defenders was nearly 21 and they had played a combined 69 games between them.
But apart from a couple of half chances early, the Reds were unable to break them down.
Adelaide were the last team the Jets held to nil, in a 1-0 victory at Hunter Stadium in round 23 last season.
The draw ended a two-game losing streak for the Jets and moved them to 17 points.
Adelaide remain second on 29 points.
The crowd of 10,721 was the lowest of the season but they were treated to an open, entertaining clash despite the lack of goals.
Desperate to end a 18-game gap since the last clean sheet, Jets coach van Egmond overhauled the backline again. Taylor Regan was promoted for his third start of the campaign alongside Connor Chapman in the centre of defence.
Craig Goodwin dropped from midfield to cover for Scott Neville, who succumbed to a hamstring strain.
James Brown also started in the other change from the 2-1 loss to Melbourne Heart.
Antony Golec replaced Nigel Boogaard (hamstring) in the only alteration from the Adelaide outfit which pumped Sydney FC 3-0.
The visitors came out flying.
Vidosic forced a reflex save from Mark Birighitti in the fifth minute and Bruce Djite blasted into the side netting a minute later.
With the temperature nudging 30 degrees earlier in the day, the teams had a scheduled drinks break at the mid-point of the half.
At that stage, Adelaide had 56 per cent of possession, led the corner count 4-0 and had six attempts on goal to the Jets one.
Whatever was in the water, it worked for the Jets.
"The first 20 minutes we were a bit too strung out and pressed a little too high at times," said van Egmond.
"Then all of a sudden we started to understand what the structure needed to be."
Adelaide coach John Kosmina noticed a change too.
"We were dominant before that. About the 30th minute for some reason it was like the curtain came down," he said.
Ryan Griffiths, who switched flanks with James Virgili, had a shot finger-tipped over the bar by Eugene Galekovic on the half hour.
From there it was all the Jets.
Virgili cut the Reds to shreds down the left, combining with Emile Heskey and Brown.
All that was missing was a goal.
Griffiths hit a half-volley which was blocked by Galekovic. The rebound fell to Brown but he could not get enough on his reboud and it was cleared off the line.
Griffiths couldn't climb high enough to get his head to Ruben Zadkovich's cross with Galekovic caught in no-mans land and Brown skied another shot over the bar in stoppage time.
Jets marquee Emile Heskey didn't return after the break due to a quadriceps injury and was replaced by Adam Taggart.
"He has a grade one strain in his quad. We will assess that when he is cool and see what the medicos say," van Egmond said after the game.
Heskey is the Jets leading goalscorer with seven and is second to Ruben Zadkovich in minutes played.
But the change did little to stem momentum.
Griffiths had a shot tipped around the right left post and then sent a header over the bar.
Taggart forced another desperate save from Galekovic in the 57th minute.
With one former premier league star on the sideline, van Egmond introduced another in Michael Bridges with 28 minutes remaining.
The veteran playmaker provided some deft touches but not a goal in his biggest contribution of the season.