A RUTHLESS Newcastle Jets bounced back to form and handed fierce rivals Central Coast Mariners the wooden spoon with a 8-2 shellacking at Gosford on Saturday night.
The Jets had lost three on the trot, and although secure in second place, were desperate for a win to take momentum into the finals.
They did that and more.
Riley McGree scored a hat-trick, his first, Roy O’Donovan burst back into goal-scoring mode with a double and Joe Champness, replacement Lachy Jackson and Dimi Petratos also hit the target.
Connor Pain (38th) and Trent Buhagiar (80th) scored for the home side but it was purely consolation.
The demolition was the Jets’ biggest over their arch enemy, eclipsing the 5-1 rout at the same venue in round one.
They became just the second team to score eight goals in a game in A-League history.
The three points took the Jets to 50, the club’s best ever return, and they have now scored an incredible 57 goals.
However, the victory did come at a cost.
Ben Kantarovski (hamstring) limped off just before half time and is in extreme doubt for the grand-final qualifier at home in a fortnight.
“It just clicked, and even though we got an injury to Ben which might keep him out a little while, Lachlan Jackson came in and did a good job,” Jets coach Ernie Merrick said.
“All-round it was a very good performance. It was a matter of getting the right people in the right positions, and just tweaking it so that the position they were playing suited their skills.
“They were certainly up for it the boys, you could see it when they came out. What was it, three goals in 20-odd minutes?”
Wellington’s upset 2-1 win over Melbourne City in the earlier game on Saturday, moved the Phoenix to 21 points and above the Mariners.
It is the second time in three seasons Central Coast have finished bottom, and was a bitterly disappointing note for club great Josh Rose to end his career on.
The Jets travelled down the F3 having not scored in three hours, they had three in the bank after 25 minutes.
Merrick brought Joe Champness into the team and pushed Jason Hoffman forward to give the attack pace and a threat in behind.
The move paid dividends after 10 minutes.
Daniel Georgievski found McGree on the edge of the box and he slipped a beautiful pass for Champness. The rookie took a touch and stroked a low shot past Ben Kennedy for his fifth goal of the campaign.
O’Donovan doubled the advantage in the 20th minute, running on to a slide-rule pass from Steve Ugarkovic and directing the ball past a helpless Kennedy.
The goal was the Irishman’s eighth of the season and first since round five.
The goals continued to flow.
McGree was next, curling a low shot through traffic and past Kennedy for 3-0 after 24 minutes.
It was the free-flowing attack-minded Jets’ of a month ago. They moved the ball with purpose and were dangerous every time they burst forward.
However, things turned a little sour late in the half.
Connor Pain, who after hitting the right post a minute earlier, pulled a goal back for the home side when he slotted home a parry from Jack Duncan.
All of a sudden the Mariners sprung to life.
Liam Rose had a stinging effort tipped around the post by Duncan and Blake Powell was also denied by the keeper.
But, perhaps the biggest concern, was the injury to Kantarovski a minute before the break.
The defender grabbed his left hamstring as he went to chase Pain and immediately signalled to the bench.
The Jets regrouped at half time and increased the buffer back to three goals eight minutes after the break.
Again it was McGree. The teenager made an angled run across the box and unleashed a rocket. Kennedy got his hand down but couldn’t keep the missile out.
Five minutes replacement Lachy Jackson got in on the act, climbing high at the back post to head home a Dimi Petratos corner.
The goals continue to pile up.