Newcastle Jets 1 - Melbourne Victory 1
Emile Heskey clashes with Pablo Contreras. Photo: Getty Images
Newcastle Jets ended a two-game losing run but it did little to stem their frustration after being held to a 1-1 draw by an under-strength Melbourne Victory at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
The Jets had more shots, more possession and the better chances but not the killer blow.
An own goal by Victory midfielder Mitch Nichols in the 42nd minute was cancelled out by a Andrew Nabbout strike for Victory four minutes into the second half.
Double act: Newcastle's Emile Heskey heads over Pablo Contreras. Photo: Getty Images
The equaliser came 20 seconds after James Brown had missed a sitter for the home side.
Nathan Coe was brilliant in goals for the visitors. He made four crucial saves, none better than the reflex effort to stop a Craig Goodwin free kick in the 37th minute.
His opposite, Mark Birighitti, made a great one-on-one save in the first half and produced a stunning effort in injury time to thwart James Troisi.
The point moved the Jets to 19 points but they could drop out of the six if results go against them over the weekend.
Victory moved ahead on goal difference of the Mariners, who met Wellington.
Both sides were hit by injury, suspension and international commitments.
The Jets were without Adam Taggart, Josh Brillante, Andrew Hoole and Connor Chapman on Australian under-22 duty in Oman and lost Dutch defender Kew Jaliens to suspension.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat faced a near-identical situation, losing four to the Australian under-22s, Adrian Leijer to suspension and skipper Mark Milligan to a late knee injury.
The Jets tactics were clear from the outset - apply defensive pressure on a makeshift Victory back four playing out and when in possession get the ball wide and whip it into the box.
Apart from a chance to Kosta Barbourouses on the break, the visitor were under pressure for most of the first half.
They had keeper Coe to thank for keeping them on level terms until the 40th minute.
The in-form gloveman produced a great reflex effort in the 38th minute to block a Goodwin free kick, which was then cleared off the line. A minute later, he tipped a glancing header from Taylor Regan over the bar.
But there was nothing he could do to prevent the goal.
Goodwin swung a free kick into the box from the right. Jacob Pepper got a slight touch that cannoned into the head of Nichols and ended up in the left corner of the goal.
By half-time the Jets had delivered 20 crosses to five, fired 11 shots to four and spent 61 per cent in the opposition half.
James Brown should have doubled the Jets lead three minutes into the second half but with an open goal he blazed over the bar.
All of a sudden momentum had swung. Within seconds the Victory were level. Finkler released Barbourouses who swung a cross in behind for Andrew Nabbout to tap in.
Brown was replaced almost instantly. The Victory lost Nichols with a knee injury five minutes later.
Goodwin missed a free header as the chances continued to mount.