The Newcastle Jets have opened their account for the new Foxtel National Youth League season with a solid 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners in a hard-fought derby clash at Wanderers Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Jets midfielder Radovan Pavicevic took advantage of a Mariners defensive mix-up to open the scoring before the Mariners hit back via a wonderfully taken free-kick from midfielder Jesse Curran.
Newcastle regained the lead in the 25th minute when Central Coast defender Josh Forbes headed the ball into his own net from a dangerous Jets free-kick.
The Jets should have sealed the contest with some golden opportunities early in the second half before the Mariners almost snatched a late draw with a couple of fine chances from Patrick Dixon and Dillon Vorster that were well saved by jets goalkeeper John Solari.
The match got underway in hot, blustery conditions and the Jets got the perfect start when Michael Kantarovski put a long ball into the box which caused a mix-up between goalkeeper David Bradasevic and defender Adrian Vlastelica.
The ball fell to the feet of Pavicevic, who stroked the ball into an open net for a 1-0 lead after just seven minutes.
Newcastle continued to press and created another half chance when Brandon Lundy found some space on the edge of the box but he squirted his drive wide of the mark.
The Mariners hit back in impressive style when midfielder Jesse Curran piloted a pile-driving free-kick from 25 metres out around the wall and into the top corner of the net to square the contest at 1-1.
Newcastle regained the lead in the 25th minute when Matthew Bilic floated a free-kick into the edge of the six-yard box where Mariners defender Josh Forbes rose above a crowded area but headed the ball into his own net.
The Jets went close to increasing their advantage on a couple of occasions. Andrew Pawiak pushed the ball wide for Pavicevic, who shot from an acute angle into the side netting before Kantarovski broke on the counter and fed Kale Bradbery who sent his shot wide of the near post.
The Mariners had the final chance of the first half when Curran sent a curling free-kick into the box where Liam O'Dell headed wide of the target and the sides went to the break with the Jets leading 2-1.
Central Coast brought on teenager Daniel McFarlane for O'Dell to start the second half but it was the home side who pushed the play. They wasted a golden opportunity to extend their lead shortly after the resumption when Bradbery released Bradon Lundy, who sped unopposed into the box and propped but sent his shot wide of the far post.
Both sides made a number of changes around the hour mark with Thomas Waller, Matthew Bilic and Andrew Pawiak replaced by Beaudon McDonald, Benjamin Hay and Rhys Cooper for the Jets, while the Mariners brought on Lachlan Everitt for Dominic Ferguson.
The Jets went agonisingly close to getting their third goal when Lundy pounced on a defensive error from the Mariners backline and fed Bradbery who squeezed a shot under Bradasevic only to see it ricochet off the far post before being cleared off the line by Forbes.
The Jets played a man short from the 80th minute when Pavicevic was off seeking treatment for a leg injury and the Mariners almost took advantage when Dixon controlled a long ball and fired a shot on target that was deflected away by Jets custodian Solari.
Solari was made to produce another fine reflex save just a few moments later when Dilion Voster was played into the area and unleashed a bullet-like volley that was parried away by Solari before being cleared by Nicholas Cowburn as the Jets hung on for a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
Newcastle Jets 2 (Pavacevic 7, Forbes 25og)
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Curran)
At Wanderers Oval, Newcastle