NEWCASTLE Jets’ horror run with injuries continued when striker Morten Nordstrand suffered a groin injury in a 2-0 loss to the Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Already without seven players, including six front-liners, Nordstrand was unable to continue after the half-time break.
In a night that went from bad to worse, Andrew Hoole picked up his fifth yellow card for the season and is suspended for the visit by Sydney next Sunday. Jason Hoffman was left with a swollen right eye after a bruising encounter.
A depleted Jets gave as good as they got for an hour against the competition heavyweights before two goals in two minutes to Marco Rojas broke the game open.
The lively Kiwi midfielder, who returned to the starting side from international duty, put the home side ahead 52nd minute after a wicked deflection from a freekick.
Two minutes later he sealed the deal, intercepting a wayward pass from Jonny Koutroumbis and sliding a shot past jack Duncan.
The Jets battled hard and were unlucky not to pull a goal back.
Devante Clut had a shot tipped over the bar and Jason Hoffman had an effort cleared off the line.
But in the end, the class of the Victory came through.
Apart from the brilliance of Rojas, James Troisi was a constant threat, Carl Valeri was strong.
Wayne Brown tried to lift the Jets and Clut and Steve Ugarkovic had moments.
The loss was the Jets’ fourth of the season and keeps them in eighth place on six points.
The home side dominated possession and had the best two chances of the opening 45 minutes.
The Jets played with urgency and vigour but lacked a cutting edge, which was understandable given the players missing.
Coach Mark Jones, after flagging a first start for Chinese import Ma Leilei, promoted Andy Brennan to the run-on side in place of Andrew Nabbout (ankle) – one of seven Jets players sidelined with injury.
Brennan’s three previous appearances had been off the bench in the final three games of last season.
Kevin Muscat also had to make a forced change, despite having two weeks between games, with new arrival Matt Acton starting in goals for Lawrence Thomas, who injured his finger at training.
The last of Acton’s two A-league games was for Brisbane Roar three years and he had been playing in the Phillipines before signing with Victory this week as an injury replacement for back-up shot-stopper Alastair Bray (shoulder reconstruction).
Jones has been critical of the Jets slow starts and they certainly came ready to play. Ugarkovic, who started ahead of Mateo Poljak, set the tone early with a crunching tackle on James Troisi, which earned a yellow card.
Brennan had a golden opportunity to put Jets ahead after just three minutes. The winger burst into space from a Victory turnover but his shot from 10 metres sprayed wide.
Brennan’s miss was minor in comparison to one by the normal lethal Besart Berisha in the 13th minute.
Troisi capitalised on a comedy of errors at the back by the Jets and threaded a pass across the face of goal. Berisha only had to tap in from a metre but the ball squirted off the side of his foot and away.
Acton was lucky not to get a card when he rushed out of the penalty area and clattered into Clut. He made amends from the ensuing freekick with a strong two head block to deny Hoole.
The Jets hadn’t conceded a second-half goal all season but gave up two in two minutes.
They were extremely unlucky with the first when Rojas’ freekick took a wicked deflection and keeper Jack Duncan could only watch as it lobbed in the right corner.
A minute later the diminutive Kiwi doubled the advantage when he burst clear from a turnover and with two teammates on his inside slid a shot past Duncan.
Bang, the match was gone.
Ben kantarovski equalled Tarer Elrich with the most games for Newcastle with 134 when he replaced Iain Fyfe in the 63rd minute.
The night went from bad to worse when Hoole was booked for a challenge on replacement Fahid Ben Khalfallah.