The Newcastle Jets set up a do-or-die final-round game against Melbourne City in Coffs Harbour on Friday after stunning W-League leaders Sydney FC 3-1 on Saturday at Lambert Park.
American import Arin Gilliland scored a second-half hat-trick to give Newcastle a shot at their first finals showing since the first season of the W-League in 2008-09.
The Jets’ first win over the Sky Blues since December 2011 lifted them from sixth to fourth, could cost Sydney the minor premiership and ended Brisbane Roar’s finals hopes.
Gilliland volleyed home from six metres after a goalmouth scramble in the 57th minute, guided a header past Sham Khamis in the 74th then took advantage of a Khamis error to round the keeper and score four minutes later. Matildas striker Kyah Simon scored a consolation goal for Sydney in the 93rd minute.
“I had to redeem myself from the PK I missed last game, so I think that does it,” a beaming Gilliland said after the match.
Newcastle (15) must beat City (17) in Coffs Harbour to finish in the top four after the defending champions downed Brisbane 3-1 on Sunday evening to snap a six-game winless streak.
Jets coach Craig Deans was proud of his young side after they completed their second boilover in two weeks against a team laden with international talent.
“I think this result was probably the best result we’ve had all year,” he said on Sunday. “We beat Melbourne Victory 4-0, but I think the quality of the Sydney team is right up there.
“If they’d won yesterday, they could have won the league. We weren’t playing a team that was just going through the motions, that’s for sure.
“It was a tough game. Three-nil made it look a bit more comfortable than perhaps it was.
“It was good for the young ones to get that self-belief that they’re good enough to play in this league. They’ve just got to keep doing it and keep backing their ability.”
Deans said his players had set out to pressure the Sky Blues “all over the pitch”.
“We watched Melbourne City play them the week before, and they sat off and allowed them to have time on the ball, and they’re too good to do that.
“We just pressed as much as we could and put them under the pressure, and when we had chances to score, we scored.
“Katelyn [Rowland] had a good game in goals and Megan [Oyster] and Cass [Davis] played well again at the back. I think it was a fair result. I don’t think we didn’t deserve to win. It was a good, professional performance.”
The coach praised Gilliland for a match-winning contribution in her second game back from injury.
“We’re definitely not a one-player team, but I think when you have players of her quality – she just came from a US national team camp before she got here – she’s obviously got a lot of ability.
“We missed her for three games, and they were games against teams we should have beaten and we only drew them. I think that shows you how much influence she has.
“All the American girls in the league have to play well for their teams to be successful, because every team has got four of them pretty much.”
Deans had no problem playing a crucial home game this week away from Newcastle and said it could even benefit his side.
“The second half of the season we’ve been away a lot and we’ve done pretty well. We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a big buzz up there anyway with the Timmy Cahill factor. I think the girls will be excited about that.
“It’s good for the club to have two teams who are competing near the top of the table again. I think as a club it’s an important weekend for us.
“But we’re expecting a tough game, because Melbourne City are on a bad run, and I don’t think it’s going to continue when you have a team with that amount of talent in it.”