Taggart kicks off new era with double as Jets beat Magic

COACH Gary van Egmond was confident his new-look Newcastle Jets were headed in the right direction after they opened the pre-season with a 3-1 victory over Broadmeadow Magic at Wanderers Oval last night.

Teenage sensation Adam Taggart scored a first-half brace and James Virgili added a third after the Jets had trailed 1-0.

Scott Pettit stunned the A-League side when he swooped on an error at the back and nailed a shot which swerved late and went though the fingertips of keeper Mark Birighitti.

But from there it was all the Jets.

Taggart levelled inside a minute, added a second two minutes later and had a shot cleared off the line before he was substituted in the 25th minute suffering tightness in his groin.

The former Perth Glory striker was one of a number of fresh faces to catch the eye as van Egmond unveiled a new brand of up-tempo football in tricky conditions.

The ground’s new lights, which were switched on for the first time, were superb, but rain before and during the match made the surface slippery.

‘‘I thought the boys did extremely well,’’ van Egmond said

‘‘There is plenty for us to build on.

‘‘I was happy with the intensity we showed trying to win the ball back. I was happy with the way we controlled the majority of the match.

‘‘We got a bit sloppy for them to score the goal, but in the main they had very few chances.’’

After inheriting a squad which went on to finish seventh last season, van Egmond put a broom through the roster.

First-team regulars Jeremy Brockie, Francis Jeffers, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Tarek Elrich, Ali Abbas and Kasey Wehrman were shown the door.

In their place have come a host of talented youngsters, many of whom have come through the Australian Institute of Sport and have been schooled in the possession-based pressing game van Egmond is desperate to play.

It is only early days, but the signs are good. They dominated possession, played some brilliant one- and two-touch football, moved swiftly with and without the ball and had the fullbacks overlap and get forward at every opportunity.

‘‘You look at Scott Neville’s work rate at right back, Craig Goodwin’s work rate, Lee Soung-yong’s work rate, getting up and down the touch line,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘It is important for us to have people who can do that.

‘‘I thought one of the better things tonight was how sharp young Taggart was.

‘‘He got himself on the scoresheet a couple of times, created a few chances for others and could have scored a couple more himself. That was good.’’

Despite Taggart’s startling debut, van Egmond admitted the final third needed work.

‘‘What we have to get better at is being able to unlock defences,’’ he said.

‘‘We are probably two or three players short, especially in that front third area, which will compliment the rest of the group.

‘‘Once we get them, we will go to another level. We have been scouting hard to make sure we get that.’’

Van Egmond took off his starters at half-time and played most of the second half with youth team players.

Last night doubled as a trial for contract hopefuls Josh Mitchell and Lee, who started at centre back and left back respectively.

‘‘Both of them did some good things,’’ van Egmond said. ‘‘We will take stock and make a decision in the next couple of days.’’

Magic coach Damien Smith was satisfied with his side and made special mention of Pettit and 17-year-old goalkeeper Jesse Cook.

Jets: Mark Birighitti; Scott Neville, Tiago, Josh Mitchell, Lee Soung-yong; Ben Kantarovski, Ruben Zadkovich, James Brown; Ryan Griffiths, Michael Bridges, Adam Taggart.

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