THE Jets W-League side felt joy, relief and satisfaction in repaying the faith of the club after ending their finals drought with a 5-1 drubbing of Canberra United at McKellar Park on Sunday.
A hat-trick from US striker Katie Stengel and double to Emily Van Egmond catapulted the Jets into the finals for the first time since the inaugural W-League season of 2008-09.
The win was Newcastle’s first against Canberra since 2008 and ensured a top-four finish with a round to play.
This is the first season the W-League side have come under the control of A-League club owner Martin Lee. Northern NSW Football had operated and funded the team for all but one of their previous nine seasons.
Coach Craig Deans was glad his squad had delivered for the Jets.
“The girls are just happy and relieved, and I’m just happy for the club as well because they’ve invested the time and the money into the W-League team and made us feel like we’re definitely part of the club,” Deans said. “So it’s nice to repay [CEO] Lawrie [McKinna] and the owner, and to be playing in the finals.”
In an end-to-end affair from the kick-off, Newcastle went ahead in the 12th minute when Van Egmond tapped in a Stengel cross. Canberra appealed for offside but the goal stood.
The Jets were up 2-0 in the 23rd minute when Stengel pounced on a loose ball in the box and scored with her left-foot. United’s calls for a foul were denied.
The hosts got one back in spectacular fashion in the 42nd minute when Ellie Carpenter made a solo run from halfway before burying her one-on-one shot.
Jets import Arin Gilliland’s header was denied by the woodwork in the 53rd minute but Newcastle restored their two-goal edge in the 66th. Off a ball from Stengel, Van Egmond hit a right-foot strike to beat goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer’s diving effort.
The Jets all but confirmed their place in the finals in the 80th minute when Stengel produced a well-placed header from a free-kick rebound. Stengel then made sure of it in the 90th with a clinical left-foot finish.
Third-placed Newcastle moved to 20 points, four clear of Canberra and three ahead of Melbourne City, who they play at McDonald Jones Stadium next Saturday.
The victory was sweet revenge for Newcastle, who lost 2-1 to Canberra at No.2 Sportsground this season despite creating the bulk of chances.
“We spoke during the week about how we had enough chances to win that game and if it’s the same situation, I was much more confident now that we would have taken them, now we’re seven, eight games further on,” Deans said. “We had enough confidence despite the last game against Adelaide [a 2-1 loss], hopefully it was just a blip on the radar, and the performance today was really good.
“I think everyone had a good contribution and their goal was a bit against the run of play, when we got caught out a bit at the back, but second half we completely took the game away from them.”
“We never really looked in much doubt. Once we got the third goal it was just a matter of pushing on.”
Deans said Newcastle were rewarded for their high press.
“We had a good look at how they want to play and we thought if we pressed them when they are playing at the back, they wouldn’t cope and I think the second goal especially came from that,” he said.
“We just didn’t give them time on the ball and the all-round performance was really pleasing.
“I think the first 60 minutes was tough, it was a tough game.
“They are a good team. They won the minor premiership last season for a reason and they’d scored 10 goals in their past two games, so it wasn’t a matter of going through the motions.
“But once we scored the third goal, they had to open up and try and score some goals, so it was nice for Katie and Emily, and all the girls, to get some confidence. Everyone played well.”
Stengel’s hat-trick took her to 10 goals for the season, just one shy of Perth Glory superstar Sam Kerr in the race for the league’s golden boot.