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Mar 17, 2012

Roar still in hunt for Premier's Plate

Brisbane kept themselves in contention for the A-League Premier's Plate beating Newcastle 2-1 at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.

The Jets' defeat leaves the door open for Sydney, who sit one point behind in seventh place, to snatch their finals berth.

With league leaders the Central Coast posting a 1-0 win over Adelaide in a simultaneous match at Bluetongue Stadium, the second-placed Roar - who are two points adrift - are still in the running for a first-place finish with one game remaining.

Albanian import Besart Berisha and Mitch Nichols scored for the visitors with the Jets' Ali Abbas netting one in reply.

Abbas had the first real chance of the match only eight minutes in when he found himself in an eternity of space to line up his shot but sent it wide, with Jeremy Brockie's shot minutes later saved at the near post by Roar gloveman Michael Theoklitos.

But it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when Berisha - on the end of a Jack Hingert ball - scored his record-equalling 19th goal of the season.

Brazilian striker Henrique could have doubled the Roar's advantage but the ball hit the far post, ricocheted to hit the near post and somehow still didn't cross the line with the 11,471 Newcastle faithful breathing a collective sigh of relief.

The football gods smiled on the Jets again only a minute later when Berisha's powerful strike was also denied by the woodwork.

And if not enough had already gone the Jets' way, Abbas stepped up to take a perfectly-placed free kick with only five minutes remaining in the opening stanza and made no mistake, curling it in to equalise 1-1 for the hosts.

Berisha spurned a great opportunity only minutes into the second half to put the Roar in front when he found himself one-on-one with Jets 'keeper Matthew Nash but his header sailed over the crossbar.

The Roar were gifted another chance in the 53rd minute when they were awarded a penalty after Calvano Tiago brought Hingert down in the box.

Henrique stepped up to the spot but, in yet another stroke of luck for the Jets, Nash saved the Brazilian's shot.

With half an hour remaining, Theoklitos came to the Roar's rescue with two superb consecutive saves, blocking Ryan Griffiths and ex-Arsenal and Everton striker Francis Jeffers' shots.

Tiago gifted the Roar another penalty in the dying minutes with his tackle on Erik Paartalu, this time Nichols making no mistake from the spot to score the 81st-minute winner.

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