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THE Jets took another tentative step on the tightrope walk to the A-League finals with a nil-all draw against two-time champions Brisbane at Hunter Stadium on Friday night, but only after benefiting from a controversial no-goal ruling in their favour.
The Roar appeared to have drawn first blood in the 43rd minute when Socceroos defender Jade North, who famously skippered the Jets to their 2008 grand final triumph, stabbed the ball into the back of the net, only to be ruled offside.
Replays suggested the decision was line-ball, and Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey was left to rue a call that could prove extremely costly in the race for the play-offs.
‘‘Look, I haven’t seen it, but Corey Brown, we brought him as our 16th player, he was upstairs and he said it was definitely a goal,’’ Mulvey said.
‘‘So that’s disappointing. But that’s football and these things happen. We’re not going to dwell on it. We need to dwell on the positives.’’
Like Mulvey, Jets coach Gary van Egmond said he did not have a clear view of the incident.
‘‘I didn’t even see the replay, so I can’t comment on that, but I’m sure we’ve had a couple like that as well,’’ van Egmond said.
Newcastle entered the round-22 fixture sixth on 26 points, one point behind fifth-placed Sydney and two ahead of both Brisbane and Melbourne Heart.
A win would have given the home side a five-point buffer on seventh position, at least temporarily, and allowed them to breathe a little more easily.
Instead they moved level with Sydney, who remain fifth on goal difference, and both Brisbane and Heart remain in striking distance.
If the Heart beat Sydney at AAMI Park tomorrow, Newcastle will be left clinging to sixth place on goal difference.
Van Egmond admitted he had mixed emotions about the result.
He was satisfied with his team’s resolve in defence but would have preferred a win on home turf.
‘‘Look, we’re at home, if you get maximum points, you’re five points away from them and it really puts you in a good position for the run into the finals,’’ he said.
‘‘But I think we can take quite a bit out of that, with the performance and the opportunities we created.’’
The Jets face a battle of nerves in their five remaining games, the next three of which are in the space of nine days.
On Wednesday they face hoodoo team Wellington Phoenix in the New Zealand capital, followed by Melbourne Victory (away) on Sunday, Perth (home) on March8, Adelaide (away) on March15 and Western Sydney (home) on March29.
Last night was the fifth time Newcastle have kept a clean sheet this season and their second in as many games, after last week’s 2-0 win against the Heart.
But they were lucky to survive with their goal intact after a nerve-racking first half played in often torrential rain.
Striker Besart Berisha, in particular, was menacing and Newcastle keeper Mark Birighitti produced a string of brave saves to keep him at bay.
At the other end of the pitch, Newcastle’s only real chance came in the sixth minute when defender Josh Brillante produced a pinpoint cross for marquee striker Emile Heskey, whose diving shot hit the right-hand post.
Jets skipper Ruben Zadkovich prompted a diving save from Brisbane’s Michael Theo in the 52nd minute with a fierce left-foot shot.
The slippery conditions resulted in a string of dubious challenges, and referee Lucien Lavedure was regularly reaching for his pocket, handing out seven yellow cards.
Given the weather, the 8310 spectators who attended the match deserved credit for their dedication and resilience.
Van Egmond fielded an unchanged starting line-up, although he tinkered with his bench, adding youngster Andrew Hoole at the expense of Craig Goodwin.
AAP reports: Singapore police said the suspected boss of a major football match-fixing ring was ‘‘assisting’’ investigations after the head of Interpol urged his arrest and an alleged associate was held in Italy.
Tan Seet Eng, also known as Dan Tan, who has been named in several probes and is wanted in Italy, is ‘‘assisting Singapore authorities in their investigations’’, police said.
It is the first time police have indicated Tan has undergone questioning.
Singapore has come under growing pressure to act after Europol linked hundreds of suspicious games worldwide to a criminal syndicate in the city-state.