Newcastle Jets' razzle-dazzle thrills fans after shock win over Sydney FC
Who doesn't love Newcastle Jets right now?
Sydney FC may be top of the league – and deservedly so – but Newcastle are now the story of this season and are taking their fans and neutrals on a thrill-a-minute ride.
They entertain, they attack and they never give in. They are relentless.
Add teamwork, a club that's together off the pitch, under likeable CEO Lawrie McKinna, and on it under head coach Ernie Merrick and it's a potent cocktail.
Saturday’s magical 2-1 defeat of the Sky Blues, in front of a fabulous crowd of over 18,000 at McDonald Jones, confirmed just how far the Jets have come under Merrick.
The men from the Hunter took on the fearsome machine that is the Sky Blues and with 10 men following Roy O'Donovan's red card inside 15 minutes, put on a performance that was at times breath-taking.
It was a clash that deserved the billing as two hosted one in the Hyundai A-League.
Andrew Nabbout's winner was sublime; Dimi Petratos' shimmy and shot that hit the post had the fans off their feet.
And what about their leader Nigel Boogaard? He adds the steel down back to a side that oozes confidence going forward.
With Saturday's result, Newcastle have notched eight home wins in a Hyundai A-League season for the first time.
And they’ll play finals football for the first time in seven years this April.
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The Jets ended a run of 15 matches without a win against Sydney FC, 12 of which were defeats.
Who knows, in their 10-year anniversary of their only Hyundai A-League Championship, they could end up back in the season finale against Sydney?
So, what happens from here?
There are two away games, then two at home and an F3 Derby in Gosford to finish the season with a bang.
Right now on 44 points, Newcastle are just eight points shy of the Sky Blues on 52 with five games or 15 points left to play for.
Unlike Sydney FC, the Jets can concentrate on league matters (the Sky Blues are in the middle of an ACL campaign with the team leaving this weekend for a midweek clash in Japan).
However, Merrick's men lose some momentum as they don't play next weekend due to the split round, but hit the road over the ensuing two weeks, travelling to Phoenix on March 17 then Adelaide six days later.
Two tough games. But certainly, they'll feel six points isn't impossible.
Then, Jets are home to Melbourne City in a blockbuster on April 1. City are desperate to host in the first week of the finals and will need to hold onto either third or fourth (they are currently third on 33 points) in order to have home ground advantage.
Glory hit the Hunter five days later before a blockbuster F3 to finish the regular season on April 14.
Then it's finals time.
As Jets coach Ernie Merrick said after the Sydney FC game, there is no trophy in the cabinet as yet.
"We haven't won anything yet, but that was a special night with 10 men against a very good team.
"Again, the boys fought to the end to score a goal."
Jump aboard the Jets bandwagon. See them live; watch them; support them.
The next couple of months will absolutely be thrilling.