THE Newcastle Jets’ finals drought is officially over.
On the 10th anniversary of the Jets’ lone A-League championship, super sub Joey Champness scored a late goal to bury Brisbane Roar 1-0 at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The win moved the second-placed Jets to 41 points, and opened a 19 point buffer to seventh with just six rounds (18 points) remaining.
The Jets’ last appearance in the post season was in 2010 when they limped into sixth spot. The current crop have loftier ambitions than that. They have moved eight points clear of third-placed Melbourne City and are eight behind leaders Sydney, who meet Wanderers in a derby on Sunday night.
The Jets have now scored in 21 straight games, but the record streak appeared in danger of ending thanks to some brilliant goalkeeping by Jamie Young.
After a frustrating 79 minutes which the visitors were denied time and time again, Champness finally broke the deadlock.
Introduced for Andrew Nabbout in the 72nd minute, the 20-year-old made a diagonal run to collect a piercing pass from Steve Ugarkovic, before taking a touch with his right boot and sliding a left-foot shot past Young.
The Jets fired 17 shots, including 13 on target and delivered 39 balls into the area.
The Roar weren’t without their chances with Jack Duncan arguably the second best player on the pitch behind his opposite.
The match wasn’t without late drama.
Deep in stoppage time Nikolai Topor-Stanley appeared to push Avraam Papadopoulos just inside the 18-yard box. However the Roar’s appeals for a a penalty were turned down by referee Steve Lucas. Unlike last week, the Video Assistant Referee didn’t intervene and play continued.
Apart from Duncan, Ugarkovic and Riley McGree were superb.
The Jets had the better of the chances in an open first half that had everything bar a goal.
As expected, Ernie Merrick handed McGree his first start in place of an injured Pato Rodriguez (calf) on the right.
The visitors have dominated this fixture and it was the Jets who started the brightest.
They had 60 per cent of possession in the open 15 minutes and had a golden chance to go ahead when Nigel Boogaard released Roy O’Donovan with a defence-splitting pass in behind.
However, the Irishman’s first touch was wide to his left and his angled shot careered into the body of keeper Jamie Young.
Young was again the hero three minutes later. Andrew Nabbout played a neat one-two with McGree and then tried to stroke a shot inside the right post. But the keeper moved to his let to parry and then Ivan Franjic put enough pressure on the rebound as O’Donovan fired wide.
It was a sign of things to come.
Nabbout had a header whiz past the crossbar and Jason Hoffman stung the gloves of Young as the shot count rose to 7-1 midway through the half.
The Roar’s best moments came on the counter attack.
Fahid Ben Khalfallah forced a hurried save from Jack Duncan on the half hour before the home side threatened twice just before the break.
Franjic, with Duncan on the ground after punching a cross away, blazed a header over the bar. Then in stoppage time, Duncan showed great reflexes to stick his left leg out and deny Brett Holman.
Duncan react quickly again seconds into the second half, getting a strong hand up to knock away a Holman shot which ricocheted off the leg of Ugarkovic.
It was almost a competition between the two keepers to see who could make the best save.
Young was at it again in the 54th minute tipping a McGree rocket over the bar.
As the minutes ticked away and the chances continued to mount, you could see the Jets frustration growing.
With legs tiring in the humid conditions, Merrick introduced Champness for Nabbout in the 73rd minute and it nearly paid instant dividends.
The lanky winger burst in to the box but his pass to free Petratos was intercepted.
Petratos then had a freekick brilliantly saved again by Young.
Then, finally, Champness broke the deadlock.