Weakened Jets, Victory sides draw in Newcastle
A Mitch Nichols own-goal has forced Melbourne Victory to share the points in a 1-1 round 14 A-League draw with Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium.
Nichols found the back of his own net late in the first half before Andrew Nabbout saved his blushes with a sure strike from close range for the equaliser shortly after the restart.
After a slow first half, the second stanza was highlighted by end to end action and goalkeeper Mark Birighitti saved the Jets late when he pushed a James Troisi shot wide in time added on to ensure the draw.
Only minutes earlier both Nathan Burns and Josh Mitchell put shots tantalising over the bar as the Jets failed to make the most of their chances.
With third spot up for grabs, both coaches rang in a raft of changes prior to kick-off and Leigh Broxham took over the Victory captaincy from the injured Mark Milligan as both sides started the fixture slowly in ideal conditions before 12,270 fans.
Kosta Barbarouses should have put the visitors ahead in the 28th minute when he found himself one-on-one with Birighitti but the shotstopper was good enough to parry the ball wide for what resulted in an ineffective corner.
After a period of sustained pressure in which Emile Heskey, Craig Goodwin and James Brown all missed opportunities to open the scoring, the Nichols own-goal broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute when his rebound found the back of the Victory net.
After the break what had been a sluggish encounter broke open, starting with Nabbout's equaliser.
An entertaining second half ensued but neither side was good enough to break the deadlock.
The result leaves the Victory in third on the A-League ladder behind leaders Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond bemoaned the fact both sides had been hit hard by Australia's under-22 Asian championship campaign.
But he said the team needed to play more ruthless football.
"We had the chance to go further ahead and we didn't," he said.
"We need to learn how to punish other sides.
"Good teams punish other teams and we need to work out how to do that."
Victory boss Kevin Muscat said he was proud of his team hit by injury, suspension and national duty.
"I'm pleased with the players, we put in a great effort," he said.
"With all the disruption we have had, we showed a lot of character. We will take a lot from that game."
Newcastle Jets 1 (Mitch Nichols 42m og) Melbourne Victory 1 (Andrew Nabbout 49m) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 12,270. Referee: Strebre Delovski