NEWCASTLE coach Craig Deans thought his side’s luck had finally changed when Adelaide gifted them a second goal in the 85th minute to put them 2-1 up on Monday morning at McDonald Jones Stadium.
A minute later, centre-back Cassidy Davis went off with a knee injury and the Jets’ fortunes quickly turned back the other way.
With no defensive options left and Matildas centre-back Larissa Crummer suspended, Newcastle’s makeshift backline was exposed as Adelaide scored twice in stoppage time to win 3-2 and leave the Jets second last on seven points from seven games – six points outside the top four. Adelaide went to second on 15.
Adelaide substitute Isabel Hodgson, who came on in the 87th minute, got in behind to score the equaliser in the first minute of additional time and then crossed for American Veronica Latsko to knock home the winner in the fourth. It was her eighth goal of the season and put her joint top of the W-League scoring list.
The collapse was a devastating blow for the Jets, who were already reeling from a season-ending knee injury to American flyer Taylor Smith, Crummer’s one-game suspension and the likely loss of striker Katie Stengel (ankle) for the campaign.
Earlier, Jets forward Teigan Collister took advantage of a mistake from goalkeeper Sarah Willacy to score her maiden W-League goal in the 21st minute. Collister found an open net from an acute angle with her long-range shot after Willacy was caught out of position.
Half-time substitute Fanndis Fridriksdottir levelled in the 56th minute when she beat Arin Wright on the right edge of the box and hit a curling right-foot strike inside the near post.
The Jets looked to have secured three points late when left-back Laura Johns scored an own goal, heading a cross from Wright over Willacy, but the visitors stormed home in steamy conditions.
“I thought we’d had zero luck this year really and when they got that second goal, I thought maybe things might change a little bit,” Deans said. “But if you are relying on luck to win, that’s a dangerous game to play.”
Newcastle have five games left to resurrect their season and push for back-to-back finals appearances. They play Sydney away on Friday and finish with Perth, Melbourne City, Adelaide and Western Sydney.
Deans said the Jets’ finals fate was still in their hands.
“If we’re good enough and we get everyone on the same page, fill in the holes we’ve lost players in, then we’ll get there,” he said. “If not, we just have to learn from it and see how much we can get out of these younger players.
“We need to just keep on working hard. We’re obviously down on numbers now and we just have to work with what we have left.
“I thought the girls showed a good attitude and work ethic, so that’s a starting point now. And when you’re down on your bigger-name players, it’s a chance for some of the younger ones to step up and show everyone what they’ve got and maybe make a name for themselves.”
Deans was disappointed “because I think we probably didn’t ever deserve to lose the game”.
“We didn’t create a lot of clear chances but we definitely had the ball enough in some reasonable areas,” he said.
“We got 2-1 up with injury time to go so I suppose from that point of view you should make sure you don’t lose that game.
“We don’t have another center back to go in there, so you just have to try to make do.
“But the players need to understand that that’s the situation. You've lost a lot of players and if you get yourself in a position to win, you just have to be a little bit more professional to make sure you finish the game.
“I thought we had a lot of young players on the pitch and they had some good moments and not so good moments, but they are young players and that’s what happens.
“They tried. The girls who had to fill in in unfamiliar positions tried their best and we just weren’t good enough.
“Up until the last six minutes of added-on time everyone was quite happy with how everyone was playing, and it’s again maybe a by-product of a young team that you’re not sure how to close out a game.”
Pana Petratos, the sister of A-League Jets star Dimi, earned her first W-League start. Tara Andrews replaced Petratos late, making her return from an ankle fracture sustained in round two.
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