Bridge goal propels Wanderers to win over Jets

ANGELA HABASHY
Last updated 02:06 15/12/2013

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Western Sydney halted their winless streak with a 1-0 victory over Newcastle on Saturday, courtesy of a Mark Bridge goal.

The Wanderers had not posted a win in three weeks, their last triumph coming in round six over Melbourne Victory.

But Bridge netted the lone goal in the 33rd minute to ensure the three points for the reigning premiers at Hunter Stadium.

The win keeps the Wanderers in second place on the ladder and within reach of top-dogs Brisbane, who remain five points ahead.

The Newcastle attack was dealt a double blow ahead of the match with last week's two-goal hero Nathan Burns and marquee man Emile Heskey both ruled out with knee complaints.

But it didn't seem to deter the Jets with skipper Ruben Zadkovich forcing a save from Wanderers' gloveman Ante Covic within the first five minutes.

Bridge returned serve for the Wanderers with a shot of his own just moments later with Jets keeper Mark Birighitti easily thwarting the effort.

Birighitti however was lucky not be sent off mid-way through the opening half after handling the ball outside the area, the offence earning only a yellow card.

The Wanderers went ahead in the 33rd minute after Shijni Ono sent a superb ball into the box with Labinot Haliti passing it to the waiting Bridge who headed home.

But the goal was soured with the Jets crying foul after Haliti clearly pushed Jacob Pepper in the box just before the goal.

Bridge looked like doubling the Wanderers' advantage with a powerful shot rocketing off the bar just before the break.

The Wanderers kept up the assault in the second half with Jerome Polenz and Ono both firing shots at goal while Haliti drew two saves from Birighitti.

Jets coach Gary van Egmond brought on Michael Bridges and Craig Goodwin for Zadkovich and Andrew Hoole with half an hour to go in an effort to bolster the attack.

And while the Jets did look more dangerous in the final stages, they couldn't find the equaliser, suffering their first loss at home this season.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic felt the win was just reward for his charges.

"I wouldn't say I was relieved, I'd say very pleased," he said.

"I'm very pleased for the players because they've performed well and they haven't gotten the reward in terms of wins.

"They performed well today against a team full of confidence and it was fantastic win.

"We defended very well as a team and we always looked dangerous going forward, I thought we could have had a couple more."

Van Egmond was left to lament his deflated attack but was hopeful Heskey and Burns would be fit for their clash away to Brisbane next week.

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"They gave their heart and soul ... but in especially in that front third we just lacked the right decisions to pass or the right touch.

"We just didn't really make any clear cut chances and you just have to against this team.

"It makes a big impact to have lost Nathan and Emile, you can't just replace them.

"We're very disappointed, the last thing you want to do is lose at home."

Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Mark Bridge 33m) Newcastle Jets 0 at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 16,634. Referee: Jarred Gillett

- AAP

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