NEWCASTLE Jets coach Branko Culina was left to rue a contentious call he felt may have cost his team a much-needed victory against Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium yesterday.
The Jets had to settle for a 1-all draw after substitute Jobe Wheelhouse buried the ball in the net in the 84th minute only to have his celebrations cut short when he was ruled offside.
"When luck is not running your way, those decisions don't go your way," a disappointed Culina said at the post-match media conference.
"I haven't seen it, so I can't comment, but I have heard about it and they said it was line-ball.
"Now the whole thing [the offside rule] is to encourage the attacking team.
"If that's the case maybe the goal should have stood."
Television replays indicated that the decision was too close to call with the naked eye, so Culina and his players can perhaps feel hard done by.
But the veteran coach was nonetheless buoyed by Newcastle's performance and the fact they ended a three-game losing streak.
"In the first half, I thought we could have won a couple of games," Culina said. "We played good football great football at times without taking full advantage."
The heroes for Newcastle were English import Michael Bridges, who created a goal on debut, Iraqi midfielder Ali Abbas and goalkeeper Ben Kennedy, who exorcised some demons with an outstanding penalty save.
Bridges, the former Leeds United star who signed with Newcastle last week, made an early impression when he helped winger Song draw first blood in the sixth minute.
After midfielder Adam D'Apuzzo dispossessed Adelaide skipper Travis Dodd with a solid challenge, he linked with Bridges, who threaded a pinpoint pass to Song between two defenders.
The in-form Korean burst onto the ball on the edge of the box and gave Adelaide keeper Eugene Galekovic no chance with a powerful strike.
It was his second goal of the season.
Bridges, who had not played for a month, kept scheming until he was replaced by Sasho Petrovski in the 83rd minute.
He was satisfied with his first-up contribution, especially since he has not played in six weeks.
"I was delighted, on a personal note, just to get through 80 minutes before I blew up," Bridges said.
"I felt like as the game went on, I got stronger and stronger.
"So it was a positive for myself."
Culina was equally encouraged by his new recruit.
"He actually surprised me," Culina said. "I thought he got stronger as the game went on.
"He did a lot of good things, even after the period that we had designated would be enough for him."
Abbas was equally impressive in his starting debut.
After two impressive showings off the bench since joining the Jets from Marconi, Abbas was promoted to the first XI at the expense of Kaz Patafta and proved a constant menace to Adelaide with his pace and ability to beat a man.
In Culina's reshuffled team, there was surprisingly no place for former Adelaide veteran Angelo Coztanzo, not even on the bench. Kennedy, who had conceded two costly penalties in Newcastle's losses to Sydney and Perth, made amends with a fantastic save yesterday.
After Jets defender Ljubo Milicevic fouled Lucas Pantelis in the box in the 59th minute, Dodd stepped up to the spot.
The usually reliable Dodd hit his penalty firmly to Kennedy's left-hand side, but the youngster anticipated well to parry it and maintain Newcastle's 1-0 lead.
But Kennedy had no chance in the 76th minute when Adelaide's Brazilian import, Cassio, unleashed a cracking left-foot shot that rocketed into the top-right corner of the net.
Adelaide coach Aurelio Vidmar said it was a frustrating game and felt his team did not click into gear until midway through the second half.
"It took us about 70 minutes to get going," he said. "It was a little bit slow and laboured to start with.
"The last 20 minutes was very good how I know the boys can play."
Last night's result left Newcastle ninth on the ladder, on nine points, four points adrift of the top six. Adelaide remain seventh on 12 points.
The Jets now have a mini-hiatus until Sunday week, when they play host to champions Melbourne.