Jets close in on A-League top six
The Newcastle Jets edged closer to cracking the A-League's top six after defeating the North Queensland Fury 3-1 at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday night.
A crowd of 4315 saw the Jets hit the Fury with two early goals from Rebun Zadkovich and Labinot Haliti, before inflicting a final blow courtesy of Ryan Griffiths in the 70th minute.
Mark Hughes' penalty goal came too little too late for the Fury during injury time.
The Jets now pass Wellington Phoenix on the ladder, moving into seventh position for now, only two points outside the finals' cut-off.
While the Fury remain trapped at the bottom of the ladder.
On his debut for the Fury, goalkeeper Sebastian Usai had his first tense A-League moment early, when the Jets' Griffiths made a break and got away a shot that drifted wide of the left post in the third minute.
The Fury were quick to respond with Andre Kilian getting a cross into Adam Casey, whose shot hit the post in the fifth minute.
The Jets were gifted a goal in the 12th minute with Casey giving away a free kick just outside the 18-yard box that allowed Zadkovich to get away a low shot that slipped past a diving Usai and into the back of the net to make the score 1-0.
It didn't take long for the situation to get worse for the Fury with a wayward pass from Kilian finding Haliti, who one-on-one with keeper Usai, executed to make it 2-0 after 14 minutes.
North Queensland came out after halftime looking to salvage some pride with Jack Hingert getting away a cross that found Jason Spagnuluos' head and drifted wide of the goal by inches in the 63rd minute.
The Jets crushed any hopes the Fury had of salvaging pride with a final blow in the 70th minute with Tarek Elrich getting in a perfect cross into an unmarked Griffiths, who tapped the ball into the back of the goal to give Newcastle a 3-0 lead.
North Queensland managed to get onto the scoreboard during injury time with a penalty shot from Hughes.
Newcastle Jets Coach Branko Culina was pleased with his team's performance.
"I thought we were very comfortable all the way through in the first half in particular," he said.
"Second half was always going to be difficult due to the conditions but we scored the third at the right time. I was very pleased."
Culina said the absence of goals in between their second and third was their plan leading into the game.
"We wanted to be patient. That was our aim; that was our tactic," he said.
"We wanted to get behind the ball and conserve energy because it is very energy zapping."
Culina credited his team for bouncing back after their loss at home against Sydney FC last week.
"The good sides are the ones that bounce back and to bounce back away from home against an opponent who had no pressure on them and in difficult conditions is always pleasing."
North Queensland Fury Coach Franz Straka admitted that with the loss, their hopes of making the finals were finally gone.
His team now have to win all of their remaining games to be any chance of scraping into the top six.
"I am disappointed... There is no more after this result," he said.
Straka thought his team began well but were made to pay for not being able to convert chances into goals and for their lack of confidence.
"I think we began very well. We had a big chance with Adam Casey and the team did the best it could but two goals against us in the first half was deadly. The game was over," he said.
"In the second half we tried our best to keep going and I think we missed more confidence on the ball. It was the big difference."