Two goals in the last ten minutes earned the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers a gutsy come-from-behind victory against the Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium.Here’s what we saw.
Cometh the hour, cometh the Mitch
Mitch Nichols and the Wanderers are fast becoming a match made in Hyundai A-League heaven.
The attacking midfielder scooped man-of-the-match honours with a display earmarked by his now trademark tireless work rate and the 86th minute strike that sealed the three points for the Wanderers.
After Andreu restored parity from the spot following the Jet’s controversial opener, momentum began to swing in the Wanderers favour and it was Nichols who put up his hand to play the hero role.
Having already tested Mark Birighitti with a stinging half-volley in the first half, Nichols went one better, picking up Mark Bridge’s lay-off on the edge of the box and sending a low, bouncing drive into the back of the net.
A photo posted by Western Sydney Wanderers (@wswanderersfc) on Nov 7, 2015 at 11:08pm PST
A perennial team-player, Nichols deflected praise to his teammates after the game: “The boys have worked their socks off for the last five weeks so we’re finally getting the reward for it.”
If the number 6 can continue his early season form, there’s every chance a certain Ange Postecoglou might come knocking.
Impact off the pine
As a coach, when you send your substitutes onto the park the hope is for them to change the game in some shape or form.
It’s fair to say that against the Jets, Romeo Castelen, Mark Bridge and Brendon Santalab did just that.
The trio ignited the Wanderers into action, rescuing the team from a period in which they threatened to let the game slip away.
All three looked dangerous and purposeful every time they touched the ball and it was Santalab who would soon win the penalty that led to Andreu’s equaliser from the spot.
A photo posted by Western Sydney Wanderers (@wswanderersfc) on Nov 7, 2015 at 9:55pm PST
Barley five minutes later, it was birthday boy Bridge’s time to step-up, as his lay-off teed up Nichols for the match-winner.
With another tricky road trip to Melbourne City up next, Tony Popovic will hoping for a carbon-copy effect from whoever he chooses to inject into the game.
Young blood holds firm
After Spanish defender Alberto failed to recover in time from a strain he picked up last week, Popovic opted to throw 19-year-old Jonathan Aspropotamitis into the heart of defence against the Jets.
In what was just his 10th Hyundai A-League appearance, the youngster with the longest name in the league handled the task with aplomb.
Squaring off against an experienced Newcastle frontline, Aspro came off best with a number of clever interceptions, displaying calmness and maturity well beyond his years.
He might not have the physical and robust all-action game of Nikolai Topor-Stanley for example, but with his lean, stretching frame and calming nonchalance, Aspro is seemingly cut from the same elegantly stitched cloth as former Wanderer Matthew Spiranovic.
While Alberto is likely to regain his spot once he returns from injury, Wanderers fans can rest assured that if and when the time comes, Aspro will be more than capable of doing the job.
Home or away?
With the noise that the travelling support was making, it was hard to tell.
Newcastle has always been a favourite travel destination for the Red & Black and the trend continued as thousands packed out the away bays at Hunter Stadium.
A photo posted by Western Sydney Wanderers (@wswanderersfc) on Nov 8, 2015 at 1:15am PST
Given the numbers that make the trek down the F3 every year, it comes as no surprise to learn that in four seasons of existence, the Wanderers have never lost a Hyundai A-League game in Newcastle.
A glance at the fixture list shows another trip to the Hunter awaits next year on March 13; you can bet that’s one weekend Newcastle won’t be looking forward to.
Put it in your calendar.
Women do the business too
It wasn’t just our Hyundai A-League team that was getting the job done in Newcastle, as our Westfield W-League team also picked up an impressive three points on the road.
The Wander Women replicated the men’s side’s come-from-behind result, as Canadian international Carmelina Moscato scored a last-minute winner to secure a 2-1 win on Saturday.
And it would’ve been a perfect weekend for the club if it weren’t for a last-gasp equaliser in our youth team’s opening game of the Foxtel NYL season on Sunday.
Tariq Maia had given the side a 3-2 lead over the Jets before a goal deep into injury time meant that Trevor Morgan’s team would have to settle for a point.
The youth team is back in town next week to host the Central Coast Mariners at Marconi Stadium on Sunday morning while the women will play Melbourne Victory at the same venue later that afternoon.