Jets fly high in Townsville

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The Newcastle Jets recorded a convincing win away from home at Dairy Farmers Stadium against North Queensland Fury on Saturday night. In the first leg of what Franz Stracka described as a two-legged ‘cup final,’ the Jets came away with a morale boosting win that sees them remain in the hunt for a finals berth.

It was a lively start to the match, with chances at both ends in the first five minutes. First Ryan Griffiths’ cross drifted dangerously across the area, then the Fury had a great chance at the other end, with Adam Casey heading against the upright in the 5th minute.

David Williams had a further early sight of goal with a long range shot, but it was the Jets who broke the deadlock in just the 13th minute. Kasey Wehrman laid the ball off to Ruben Zadkovich from a set piece, whose low drive at goal from outside the area was not kept out by Sebastian Usai who should have done better.

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Things got even worse for the young Fury keeper, who was on his Hyundai A-League debut when just two minutes later Newcastle doubled their lead. Labinot Haliti capitalised on a terrible back pass to slot the ball calmly past the stranded Usai.

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The contest became much more physical and spiteful, with clashes between future team mates Chris Payne and Jets captain Kasey Wehrman, as well as Tarek Elrich and Brad McDonald. Eric Akoto then received a caution after the half time whistle for dissent, and the Jets went into the break two goals ahead.

The Fury improved in the second half, and began to impose themselves on the contest, gaining more possession and attacking with more purpose and energy.

Despite their enterprise, the Fury were repeatedly thwarted by the away defence which was impressive despite the absence of the influential Ljubo Milicevic, and frustration crept into North Queensland’s play with more late challenges. One such tackle resulted in Adam D’Apuzzo being forced off with an ankle injury, and was replaced by Marcello Fiorentini.

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The Fury continued to dominate proceedings, with the Jets content to sit back and hit on the counter which they did to good effect, increasing their lead in the 70th minute. Ryan Griffiths opened his Hyundai A-league account after a strong run and cross down the left from Tarek Elrich, with Griffiths side-footing a volley home from six yards after a great centre from the Jets full-back.

The Fury did net a late consolation penalty after a foul inside the box from from Wehrman, which was converted by captain Mark Hughes. The scores remained 3-1 at full time with North Queensland still anchored to the bottom of the table, and the Jets remaining in the hunt for a finals place. The two teams clash again in Newcastle on Tuesday night.

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