Joel Griffiths and Adam Taggart celebrate the late equaliser. Photo: Jonathan Carroll Disappointing end: Joel Griffiths. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
There was a great mood of anticipation swelling around Hunter Stadium for the return of Joel Griffiths. After five years away, The Chosen One was back, but it would be another striker who wrote the right headlines.
Western Sydney were on the brink of victory when, in injury time, Jets winger Andrew Hoole squared a hopeful ball in the path of Adam Taggart, who clipped the ball home to make it 2-2.
That sparked a mad minute in injury time, where the Jets chased a desperate winner. Taggart was through in goal and on track to get a hat-trick when Ante Covic clattered him way outside the box.
What nobody in the stadium realised was that amidst the confusion, referee Ben Williams had blown for full-time. Infuriated, Griffiths gave Williams a foul-mouthed serve. He was given the red card, not Covic.
That was the final act of a night that swung in every direction.
Taggart gave the Jets the lead with a sparkling early goal, one that was cancelled out by Aaron Mooy’s free-kick on half-time. A pinball scramble ended with the Wanderers taking the lead before the final-minute shenanigans took over.
Once the events have been digested, the light of day will bring little comfort for both teams. It’s only the second point from six games for Newcastle yet the Wanderers will feel as though they should have returned to Sydney with all three.
The Jets were already reeling from a blow in the warm-up when marquee striker Emile Heskey had to withdraw after suffering back spasms. He was replaced by journeyman midfielder Nick Ward in attacking midfield, giving Taggart a lone role up top.
By contrast, there was no change for the Wanderers, which was odd in itself for the habit Tony Popovic has developed of rotating his team every week, regardless of the result. That meant the experiment of playing Matt Spiranovic in defensive midfield would continue for another week. What Ange Postecoglou makes of this ploy is another matter.
Newcastle sustained pressure on Western Sydney from the opening minute and would make their best attacks from out wide, trying to curl balls behind the defensive duo of Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Michael Beauchamp. A couple of times it very nearly worked.
Taggart’s opener didn’t require assistance, however. The ex-Perth junior let fly with a tracer bullet that swerved wickedly, away from Covic but still inside the left post. Given he hadn’t scored since November, it was some way to break the drought.
But the Wanderers’ reply was first rate. It came after a succession of free kicks just outside the Jets’ defensive box, increasingly irritating the home fans. In the last of them before half-time, Mooy took a deep breath and curled a text book that dipped over the wall and past a stunned Mark Birighitti.
Williams was castigated by the home fans as he blew for half-time, contrasting with the mood of the visiting fans, singing and dancing their way through the main break. They believed the game was now theirs for the taking.
Needing something to get back into the game, Newcastle coach Clayton Zane played his trump card and Griffiths was brought on to make his long-awaited learn with half an hour to play.
Griffiths’ first 30 seconds went something like this: clashing with Topor-Stanley to win a header, simultaneously crunched by two defenders, sparking a break for Taggart and giving the linesman a mouthful. It was a sign of things to come.
But the more critical immediate action would occur at the other end. A goalmouth scramble that Birighitti failed to deal sparked danger, and just as Josh Brillante got his boot to the ball, he whacked his clearance into Beauchamp’s upper arm. No handball was given for the deflection, which trickled over the line.
However, that was only the start of the real drama.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.