Mariners rue bad luck and the lack of an away goal
OVERALL I thought the Jets were very fortunate to come away from this one with a two goal advantage. The Mariners pounded them early with a physical and direct style and really unsettled the Jets rearguard, which was forced to retreat deep into its own box (too deep I thought).
But for a brilliant goal-line clearance from Jade North to deny a Sash Petrovski’s looping header, the Mariners should have gone ahead. The Mariners were hitting John Aloisi early, by-passing the midfield, and Petrovski’s trickery was adding another headache.
Gary van Egmond has spoken often this season about his team’s improved mental toughness and here was evidence of this greater ability to absorb pressure. And then, with one of their first genuine attacks, a quarter of the way in, they scored.
Once again it was the sublime delivery of James Holland, coupled with Adam Griffiths’s willingness to get into the box that did the trick. ‘The Other Griffo’s’ diving header was a gem. He might have had another soon after.
Back came the Mariners, clearly motivated by Jade North’s swipe in the press. Aloisi and Petrovski continued to be a handful, the latter winning a penalty that the former screwed wide. Soon he was denied by the post and then an eager referee’s assistant, so it was no surprise to learn he was kicking bottles around in the dressing room at the break.
This was absorbing stuff, a far cry from the cat-and-mouse first half on Friday night.
The Jets settled down a bit in the second period and started keeping the ball. Once again van Egmond’s honesty an insight at the break was refreshing. Paraphrased, it went along these lines;
We need to move the ball around quicker, use three or four passes to move the
ball into the front third instead of dribbling with the ball. That way we can be
more effective in the front third.
For evidence of this you just needed to cast the mind back a week, to the sublime second goal against Wellington, scored by Mark Bridge, but coming after a series of delightful one-touches from defence, through the midfield and into attack. It was arguably the goal of the season, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t even rate a mention in the final reckoning. Some 40 metre bomb more than likely will.
Another brilliant move that will probably not get much of an airing resulted in the Jets’ second late on. Once again it was Holland at the heart of it. Receiving a Noel Spencer free-kick with his back to goal and under pressure, he went back to the former Mariner, who drew a midfielder and returned a square ball back into Holland’s path.
By now he had turned and was facing the Mariners goal, so he played a ball to the edge of the Mariners box, where Joel Griffiths was tightly marked. Instead of admiring his couple of touches, Holland took off into the box.
Recognising that Griffiths had plenty of attention, there must have been space elsewhere.
Griffiths saw the run, the space and Holland’s intention, and while his first-time return ball was slightly over-hit, it attracted a lunge from the late-arriving Andre Gumprecht. Contact, penalty.
In this mood, Joel Griffiths must have seen the goal like a mountain, and he duly dispatched it.
It was harsh on the Mariners, who really deserved what would have been a valuable away goal. Now Lawrie McKinna’s men host a team they haven’t been able top topple in over two years, knowing that if they concede one (the Jets have been in rampant goal-getting mood, bagging no less than two goals in their past six games), they must score four. Tough ask indeed.