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ALM: Gallant Jets fall short in 2-1 thriller

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The Newcastle Jets’ roller-coaster A-League Men’s (ALM) season continued with a fighting 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday evening.

Just days after blitzing the Brisbane Roar 3-1 at the same venue, Rob Stanton’s men pushed the competition leaders all the way at McDonald Jones Stadium on 27 January.

But, they just couldn’t capitalise on several opportunities to steal the victory.

Even so, it was an impressive effort by the Jets, who went into the fixture without Thomas Aquilina, Lachlan Bayliss, Reno Piscopo and Clayton Taylor.

Wellington, keen to avenge its loss to Newcastle late last year, was gifted the perfect start.

A clumsy challenge from defender Mark Natta drew a foul on David Ball in the penalty area.

And, captain Alex Rufer converted with a right-footed shot that flew past keeper Ryan Scott for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute.

The Jets retaliated soon after, however Kosta Grozos hit the crossbar with a thunderbolt.

Unperturbed, the Phoenix launched another attack, when Rufer found Bozhidar Kraev, but Scott produced a brilliant save to deny them.

Newcastle’s best chance occurred in the 37th minute as Grozos fired another long-range kick. Just when it appeared to be curling in, rival goalie Alex Paulsen knocked the ball away much to the crowd’s dismay.

The Jets had several other chances in the dying stages of the period, however the visitors went into the sheds ahead 1-0.

With the game on a knife’s edge, and a full half remaining, Newcastle lifted its intensity from the restart, with Dane Ingham, Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, Lucas Mauragis and Callum Timmins providing some much-needed momentum.

At the other end of the field, Scott superbly pulled off back-to-back saves to frustrate Wellington.

The Jets finally levelled it at 1-all in the 80th minute, when Trent Buhagiar deflected a Grozos bullet into the back of the net.

But, their joy was short-lived as Oskar Zawada struck the match-winner after some handy lead-up work by Ben Old.

Newcastle returns to McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday 3 February for a 6pm showdown with Melbourne Victory.

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