Newcastle Jets maintain A-League finals hopes
The Newcastle Jets have given themselves a chance of snatching the last A-League finals spot with a 2-0 win over Adelaide United at Hunter Stadium.
A goal in each half from Joel Griffiths and golden boot fancy Adam Taggart on Friday night put the Jets equal on 36 competition points with sixth-placed Sydney FC.
They now face an excruciating wait until Sunday when they need the Sky Blues to lose by a margin of two goals against Perth Glory to grab the sixth and final playoff berth.
It's the third year in a row it's come down to the final round of the season for the Jets, who face the possibility of missing the finals for a fourth consecutive season.
Adelaide could have climbed to second place with victory but remain in fourth.
The Jets started nervously while it didn't take long before Adelaide looked dangerous with Argentine Marcelo Carrusca putting keeper Ben Kennedy to work just six minutes in.
But while the Reds looked to have the momentum, the Jets went ahead in the 21st minute when striker Griffiths got on the end of a David Carney corner to head home.
The Jets continued to threaten for the opening half with marquee man Emile Heskey's smart passing creating chances.
Heskey combined with Griffiths to set up Taggart just before the break, but the striker sent his shot over the crossbar.
Reds coach Josep Gombau made a double substitution at halftime, bringing on dangerous forward Jeronimo Neumann and speedy winger Awer Mabil, and both made an instant impact.
Adelaide looked sure to level in the 65th minute when Fabio Ferreira sent the ball across the face of goal only for Carrusca to sky his shot.
The Jets had their own horrendous miss straight after when Taggart watched his header at point-blank range go over the crossbar.
Newcastle were again cruelly denied moments later, this time by Reds keeper Eugene Galekovic, who pulled off two brilliant saves to diffuse consecutive strikes from Nicholas Ward.
Jets veteran Michael Bridges came on in the 80th minute to rapturous applause for his final A-League game.
The former English Premier League player proved crucial in setting up Taggart for his 90th-minute goal, the young gun striker all but assured the golden boot after netting his 16th goal of the season.
"We had everything to play for tonight," Jets coach Clayton Zane said.
"Even though Adelaide were fighting for that top-two position, I could feel it in the sheds before the match that the players wanted to send people like Bridgey out on a high and make sure people like Adam Taggart finish the season with what he deserves, which is the golden boot.
"I'm sure most people would have left happy tonight with the way we threw ourselves at it.
"But the job's half done because we're relying on another result."
Reds coach Gombau said while the result was not what he wanted he was pleased with his side's performance.
"We had a good game, it's just that we didn't find the net," he said.
"For us it was very important to win today... but I'm satisfied with the effort, with the way that we played away from home."
Newcastle Jets 2 (Joel Griffiths 21m, Adam Taggart 90m) Adelaide United 0 at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 11,226. Referee: Peter O'Leary