JASON Hoffman is the sole survivor from the Newcastle Jets’ last foray into the Asian Champions League in 2008, and the veteran utility ensured the club will again appear on the big stage.
The right back showed great perseverance to score the decisive goal as the Jets accounted for the Wellington Phoenix 1-0 at QBE Stadium on Saturday night.
Hoffman’s 43rd minute strike – a neat side foot volley from a rebound – was his fifth of the campaign and proved the difference in an end-to-end clash.
The home side peppered the Jets’ goal, especially in the second half, but paid the price for poor finishing.
The win, only the visitor’s fifth in 19 trips to New Zealand, moved the second-placed Jets to 47 points, 13 points clear of third Melbourne City with four rounds remaining.
Second spot secures a place in a grand-final qualifier at home. At worst – if they miss the grand final – they will face a play-off for a spot in the ACL.
Hoffman is the only remaining player from the Jets’ 1-0 win over Central Coast in the 2008 grand final, which sealed a place in the ACL. They made it to the final 16 that year. Ben Kantarovski played in the ACL but was only a trainee during the championship season.
On Saturday, the Jets rode their luck against a Wellington outfit with little to play for other than pride.
The home side fired 22 shots to the Jets’ 12, won the corner count 8-6 and had 52 % of possession.
Nathan Burns and Roy Krishna had the best of the Phoenix chances.
Apart from Duncan, Steve Ugarkovic, Riley McGree and Dimi Petratos were strong.
In a welcome boost to the Jets’ championship hopes, Ronny Vargas played 30 minutes off the bench in his first appearance since breaking an ankle in round three.
He set up a golden opportunity for replacement Angus Thurgate with a beautifully weighted through ball and was composed on the ball.
Meanwhile in the Northern NSW National Premier League, champions Lambton Jaffas beat Edgeworth 4-3, Adamstown Rosebud had a 2-all draw with the Newcastle Jets youth team and Maitland accounted for Weston 2-1.