WOW. The second 2-0 away victory within a week, and the second one which was lucky and undeserved in some respects. The North Queensland game was a drab affair where Jeffers was lost and starved of the ball and where our efforts to attack were toothless and uninspiring. Yet a set piece created a breakthrough, Topor-Stanley stepped up as Milicevic had an absolute shocker in defence and Matthew Nash pulled off a couple of great saves to keep us in the game. A killer second then arrived from substitute Petrovski late on.
The win against the Heart was a different matter, where we were outplayed in the offensive third of the game and battled on defensively with only 10 men to hang on to a massive three points.
The game started brightly with both teams keen to get forward at every opportunity and it seemed like it was going to be an interesting, tight game of attacking football.
However a red card to Jobe Wheelhouse changed the shape and probably outcome of the game on 9 minutes.
The midfield enforcer, who was making only his second start of the season after injuries had ruled him out for the majority of the season, had inexplicably retaliated to Heart player Aziz Behich during the opening moments of the game.
Both had gone in for a challenge and while Wheelhouse’s push on Behich’s face was soft, the rules state that any contact with the face are grounds for dismissal.
So while Branko was left shouting at the assistant “You think that was a red!” and it was indeed a poor decision, you just can’t try that shit and get away with it these days.
Behich’s dog, pussy-weak reaction in holding his face and tumbling to the ground also didn’t help and is a great example of the shocking weakness in football these days. But ah well.
So while the Jets could have shirked from the challenge and tried to play out for a draw, they instead showed off their commitment and determination to score two goals within the next 10 minutes.
Good fortune aided our cause for the opener, with the assistant who consulted referee Alan Milliner for the red card, somehow missing the fact that Zadkovich clearly had the ball out of play on the touchline before winning a corner.
Then from the Kasey Wehrman corner, Bolton came out and made a hash of collecting the cross, the ball falling to Jeffers who controlled, turned and shot weakly with his left foot, but with enough force to take two deflections off Heart defenders and trickle into the net.
Amazing. Luck, defensive frailties and a classy striker’s nose for goal all rolled into one. Jeffers was ecstatic and his first goal for the club was hugely important for our finals chances.
Again the Jets could have tried to sit back and defend, as that has been the highlight of the season, however they continued to probe forward and Jeffers became the architect of the second on 18 minutes.
The English forward threaded a perfect through ball for Marko Jesic, and the re-born striker coolly finished past an on-rushing Bolton on the edge of the 18-yard line.
A brilliant finish from a man who deserves a new contract for next season. His performances since the arrival of Jeffers show that not only is he willing to learn, but that he also has the ability to take the lessons and implement them.
So 2-0 up and a man down all inside the opening 10 minutes of the game. Brilliant. Van’t Schip’s reaction was to bring on Jason Hoffman. We had this covered.
The Jets, despite being down to 10 men, still had large percentage of possession and were still playing the ball around nicely. However there were to be no more shots from the away side.
The Heart went close just before half-time, with Matthew Nash pulling off a fantastic save from Behich, before Thompson’s shot was directed straight at him for a routine save.
The break came with it being obvious that the Jets would have to sit back entirely after trying to match the Heart for possession in the first half.
The home side came out and did their best to find a way back into the game, however their problems in front of goal must be worrying for Van’t Schip, they have now been goalless for over 400 minutes.
Chances were missed and chances were saved. With Matthew Nash making great saves from Sibon, Zahra and two from Nick Kalmar. Meanwhile Worm hit the woodwork late on and Hoffman and Sibon headed wide and over respectively when they should have done a lot better.
Topor-Stanley was once again a rock at the back, while Matthew Nash has to take out the man of the match award.
While it was somewhat a lucky victory, it was also further evidence that this Jets side are able to compete at the top end of the table. We are now 6 games unbeaten and have a rest on the weekend, with the Gold Coast travelling down next Wednesday for another test to our finals ambitions.
Branko has said all season that this squad was worthy and capable of matching the top sides and his predictions have proved to be correct. While Jeffers arrival has sparked the revival, our success must also go down to a solid and organised back line. Injuries can also be cited for the lack of success up to Jeffers’ arrival, with the loss of Michael Bridges in particular starving us of creativity until the Englishman’s arrival.
A win or draw against the Gold Coast will mean that we will have successfully remained unbeaten against the current top four in 7 out of 9 matches this season…and 4 out of 4 in the past month.
A longer unbeaten run in on the cards, one which could propel us closer to the top two. While a top two finish seems out of the question, the A-League is full of surprises and this side looks more than capable of achieving at least a top four spot at the end of the season.