Wellington Phoenix travelled to Newcastle knowing they’d need to be at their best against an in-form and high-flying Jets, but it was league topscorer Roy O’Donovan who stole the headlines as Newcastle ran out 3-0 winners at Macdonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
Wellington have enjoyed early dominance in most of their games this season but confidence is currently high in the Hunter, and it was the Jets who made the better of the early running.
New Zealand-born youngster Joey Champness looked lively on his starting debut, helping set up Dimi Petratos whose fifth minute shot was saved at the near post by Keegan Smith.
It was a dangerous patch for the hosts with Andrew Nabbout combining well with Petratos before Smith again saved sharply through a crowd of bodies.
The pick of the saves came in the 12th minute with Smith making a point-blank save from Nabbout, with O’Donovan then heading wide from five metres out.
Phoenix put the nervy opening behind them and began to grow into the contest with both Michael McGlinchey and Dario Vidosic fashioning half-chances before Tom Doyle hit a well-struck volley from outside the box to test Jack Duncan.
Just as the visitors looked to have a solid foothold in the game though a terrible moment for the otherwise reliable Goran Paracki swung momentum in the half.
Perhaps unsighted by a blue and red advertising hoarding, the Croatian received the ball out from the back and played it straight to O’Donovan, who found himself inexplicably one-on-one just five metres out.
Smith did brilliantly to stop the Irishman’s shot but the ball fell kindly for the Jets striker to hit home his sixth of the campaign with 36 minutes gone.
With the Nix rightfully disappointed, a real sucker punch came during added-time with an excellent run and cross from Petratos putting the ball on a plate for the Irishman to loop home from close-range. 2-0 the half-time score.
Darije Kalezić would have looked for a response from his chargers in the second half as Adam Parkhouse came on for Gui Finkler, but again it was the Jets who emerged the sharper. Champness fashioned a chance inside a minute but again it was Smith who parried well.
Despite controlling possession and dictating tempo as Phoenix looked to push forward the Jets were always a chance on the counter attack. A sublime backheel from O’Donovan sparked another good attack, with Champness then picking out Nabbout.
The former Victory winger has the potential to hit them cleanly and he only needed half a window in the 54th minute to curl home a terrific effort from outside the box, giving Smith no chance.
Roy Krishna continued to threaten down the right giving the talented Ivan Vujica a torrid time at left back, but it was Vidosic with the first chance of note but his shot on the turn drifted high.
Hamish Watson and Matt Ridenton entered the fray for Andrija Kaludjerovic and Vidosic respectively but neither side fashioned many clear-cut opportunities late on.
Newcastle continuing their blistering start to the season with the Phoenix looking for a big response at home against Perth Glory next Sunday.
Newcastle Jets 3 – 0 Wellington Phoenix (O’Donovan 37’, 46’, Nabbout 54’)
Duncan (gk); Hoffman, Boogaard, Topor-Stanley, Vujica; Kantarovski, Ugarkovic, Champness (K. Petratos ’77), D. Petratos (Brown ’82), Nabbout (Shabow ’87); O’Donovan
Unused: Moss (gk), Cowburn
Smith (gk); Mullen, Durante, Doyle, Abbas; Paracki, McGlinchey, Krishna, Finkler (Parkhouse 45’), Vidosic (Ridenton 83’); Kaludjerovic (Watson 68’)
Unused: Italiano (gk), Rufer