Central Coast have jumped into outright second place in the A-League and snapped a six-game winless streak with a 1-0 derby victory over Newcastle.
The Mariners overcame a cagey start to prevail courtesy of Matt Simon’s penalty in the 54th minute at McDonald Jones Stadium, in the process extending Newcastle’s winless run to 13 games.
The Jets lost recruit Jordan O’Doherty to a stomach bug pre-game, with Ali Abbas starting in his 150th A-League game, but almost took the lead after three minutes.
Mariners defender Kyle Rowles misjudged a bouncing ball and goalkeeper Mark Birighitti had to make a brave challenge to deny Jason Hoffman – copping the ball flush in the face.
Then, Ruon Tongyik made a desperate intervention to deny Angus Thurgate on the follow-up.
Two minutes later, Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard headed a corner just over the bar.
The Mariners welcomed back Marco Urena after a two-game suspension and the Costa Rica international dragged a shot wide in the seventh minute.
From there the first half proved cagey, firey and goalless, with Roy O’Donovan hitting the side netting on 37 minutes.
The Mariners came out of halftime with a renewed intent and in the 47th minute, midfielder Josh Nisbet forced a save from Lewis Italiano.
Four minutes later, Central Coast’s Daniel Bouman got a touch on the ball before Thurgate sent him sprawling, with referee Jonathan Barreiro awarding a spot-kick.
The penalty was arguably a soft one, but after a lengthy discussion with the VAR, Barreiro stuck with his original decision and Simon coolly slotted the penalty for his 10th goal of the season.
O’Donovan almost equalised just five minutes later, forcing a spectacular fingertip save from Birighitti.
Newcastle’s night got worse when skipper Boogaard hobbled off in the 64th minute and the Jets were unable to find an equaliser from there.
Ramy Najjarine blasted a long shot well off target in the 85th minute, Valentino Yuel spurned another chance two minutes later and Thurgate shot wide in added time.