Western Sydney missed a chance to close the gap on Brisbane Roar on Saturday night as they fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium.
The Jets lost Emile Heskey in the warm up after he suffered back spasms forcing him out and seeing Nick Ward come in to the starting XI while Josh Mitchell was promoted to the bench.
That change nearly worked out for Newcastle in the 12th minute as Andrew Hoole sent a cross along the ground that saw Ante Covic dive out and stopped the ball at Nick Ward’s feet.
The Wanderers were able to have solid chances up the other end with corner after corner threatening the Jets goal but they couldn’t take the chances that were offered.
Newcastle kept on working and in the 26th minute they had the opener as Adam Taggart gathered a loose ball that he smashed at goal from distance that left Covic with no chance.
Not long later Newcastle nearly made it two as Craig Goodwin was able to get in to the box and hit a shot that was parried away by Covic.
Right at the death of the half Aaron Mooy hit an impressive free-kick from distance as he looped his shot over the wall and in to the top corner to level the scores at one at the break.
Just after the break Taggart nearly restored Newcastle’s lead as he again let fly from distance but was denied as Covic tipped it over the bar.
Joel Griffiths made his return to Newcastle just after the hour, to the delight of the crowd but his impact wasn’t what the Jets would have liked as Western Sydney hit the lead shortly after.
It was horrible defending from Newcastle that allowed the goal as the shot from a corner was cleared off the line right into Michael Beauchamp who it deflected off, crediting Beauchamp with the goal.
Labinot Haliti nearly wrapped things up for Newcastle moments later as he hit a shot that snuck its way through a crowded penalty area only for Mark Birighitti to be equal to it and make the save.
In the last minute of the match a Jets corner resulted in another goal mouth scramble and again it found a goal as Taggart tapped it home.
There was still time for late drama as Joel Griffiths continued where he left off in the A-League, doing little to endear himself to the referees, earning a red card for dissent after a challenge by Covic on Taggart.