The Jets climbed off the bottom of the A-League ladder with a hard-fought 1-all draw with the Wanderers at Bank West Stadium, in Carl Robinson's first match in charge. After almost being swamped in the opening 20 minutes Newcastle, recovered their composure and held the upper hand for long periods of the match.
On balance, a draw was probably a pretty fair reflection of the game, but did nothing for either side's prospects of launching a late run at the top six. Brisbane's win away to Western United the following day made the equation even more daunting.
The Jets would, if the standard 35 points to make the six applies, need to win seven of their last nine games to sneak in. That is a standard that only Sydney FC, and briefly Perth Glory, have approached this season.
You don't need to be Einstein to work out that is unlikely, and Robinson while encouraging the best attempt possible, seems likely to learn as much about his squad as possible in the next few months, testing the capabilities and flexibility of as many squad members as is feasible.
There are improvements to be made at both ends of the pitch, no doubt, but I reckon Robinson will be looking to the balance of his midfield as a matter of priority.
Coach Robinson will be looking to the balance of his midfield as a matter of priority.
There is a lack of genuine authority in that area, exacerbated by the recent injury to Ben Kantarovski. While there is mobility, effort, and enterprise, there is a need for some organisation, stability and protection, particularly if you are going to play with your wingbacks as high as possible.
Steve Ugarkovic has done a very good job this season, but he is still relatively young in terms of holding midfielders, and that role limits the use of his legs and lungs to maximum effect.
Angus Thurgate has done a terrific job this season, mainly from the bench, and his athleticism, acceleration, and ability to beat opponents make him probably the Jets' most exciting prospect. To me he still looks like an attacker, doing a job in the engine room, and if he does play in that area long term, it would likely be in the type of role currently reserved for Dimi Petratos, and hopefully Wes Hoolahan in the near future.
Matt Ridenton has a 100 A-League games to his credit, and has a chance to earn a recall. Pat Langlois and Jack Simmons are promising youngsters, but asking them to run a midfield at this level currently, is a bridge too far one thinks . But they are next in line right now . . .
Robinson would have been pleased with the way his team pressed as a unit when chasing the game in the last 15 or 20 minutes , albeit the Wanderers have been noticeable faders in games this season in that period. He will know also that games that move as rapidly up and down the pitch as the past two generally favour those sides with the best front third quality, or "difference makers" as he refers to them .
And the Welshman certainly gives the impression that he is pragmatic enough to have reasoned that an up-tempo high press is hard to sustain in extreme heat, on very spacious grounds. An experienced midfield who can control tempo, with and without the ball, is vital in the Australian game.
You'd imagine that the results in the next two home games, against Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory on consecutive Saturdays, will determine how Robinson and Kenny Miller approach the run home.
Two wins would lift confidence and belief exponentially, and spark hope for fans. Anything less than a four-point return might shift the focus to the future.
The priority might then become laying a base, while respect for this season is maintained, and encouraging some players to find first-team football elsewhere.
This week's opponents, Melbourne Victory, will have to deal with a midweek ACL excursion to FC Seoul in the Korean capital, and the prospect of playing in the snow, before coming to Newcastle on Saturday.
There they will meet a Jets team still smarting from the 4-0 spanking on January 5, which sealed the fate of Ernie Merrick.
If Newcastle win, they can jump above the visitors on the ladder and almost certainly consign one of the league's perennial heavyweights to a rare season without finals football.
There will be no Robbie Kruse to torment the Jets this time, but depending on recovery, Marco Rojas is back. Andrew Nabbout and Elvis Kamsoba are always a threat, and Ola Toivonen is in my humble opinion the best all-round striker in the competition.
That said, I've got to be honest and say I quite fancy the Jets will win, given their energy and Victory's form, and the demands of two games and a shedload of travel for the visitors. And I reckon a group of players, and a whole lot of fans, would savour that immensely.