Jets W-League coach Craig Deans was proud of the effort from his depleted squad after they went down 3-1 to a star-studded Sydney FC on Friday in round 10.
A double from American Savannah McCaskill proved the difference at Jubilee Stadium in what was another blow to the Jets’ fading finals chances.
McCaskill exposed poor marking to put Sydney ahead in the 28th minute with a free header from a Caitlin Foord cross. Foord and McCaskill almost repeated the dose in the 57th minute but her header bounced off the crossbar.
Goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom was strong for the Jets, diving to knock wide shots from McCaskill in the sixth minute and again in the 58th. She was up to the challenge again to stop strikes from Sophia Huerta and Foord in the 75th minute but no one could deny the Sky Blues two minutes later.
Princess Ibini caught Newcastle napping after Huerta got in behind and provided a well-timed cross for the unmarked substitute to slide in and finish.
Substitute Libby Copus-Brown gave Newcastle hope in the 82nd minute with a spectacular maiden goal in the W-League. Tara Andrews held the ball up well to lay off for Copus-Brown, whose 20-metre strike curled into the top corner of goal to make it 2-1.
Andrews had a chance in the 84th minute to equalise after Arin Wright’s run and cut-back, but her shot was blocked.
McCaskill ended Newcastle’s hopes in the fifth minute of stoppage time with a strike from wide on the right off a pass from Lisa De Vanna.
Jets coach Craig Deans, who lost starting forward Cortnee Vine to a calf injury in the warm-up, was pleased with the performance against a side who brought Matildas forwards Ibini and De Vanna off the bench. The loss left Newcastle, who have Americans Katie Stengel (foot) and Taylor Smith (knee) out injured, on seven points from eight games. They are seven points outside the top four with four matches left.
“Considering what we put out there and what they did, I thought it was an excellent performance,” Deans said.
“We were pushing for an equaliser with six minutes to go and had our chances, so I thought our players did really well. There was nothing to be ashamed of and I can’t fault their effort.”
Sydney created the better chances but Newcastle also threatened. They went close in the 66th minute when Wright hit a powerful header off a corner to force a diving parry from Aubrey Bledsoe. Teigan Collister also made Bledsoe stretch in the 38th.
Pana Petratos was unable to test the American keeper in the fifth minute after a turnover gave Newcastle a chance.
Stengel, the Jets’ leading scorer last season with 10 goals, has a stress fracture and is an outside chance of featuring again this campaign, but Smith will not return.
Sydney, who beat Newcastle in extra-time in last season’s semi-finals, moved to 12 points.