Jets back within nine points of leaders

04 February 2018 06:46:30 EST

Newcastle Jets brought the gap between them and Sydney FC back down to single digits with a 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory.

Sydney's win over Wellington Phoenix earlier in the round had given the defending champions a 12-point cushion, but Ernie Merrick's side aren't conceding anything.

They're virtually assured of ending the longest run of absence from the Finals Series in A-League history, after picking up an 11th win in 19 games.

Even more remarkable is that they only won five games last season in finishing bottom of the table.

The Jets defeated last season's beaten Grand Finalists, and now have an 18-point cushion inside the top six - somewhere they've not finished since 2011.

The home side netted through Nigel Boogaard and Riley McGree, while keeper Jack Duncan made a string of fine saves.

Merrick said: "We look like we'll be in the finals now and I said to the boys it's a bit of a rehearsal, the next time we'll play Victory will be in the finals."

Victory failed to click at McDonald Jones Stadium, with A-League record goalscorer Besart Berisha missing three chances from close range.

Newcastle also missed some good opportunities, the most glaring coming when returning striker Roy O'Donovan fluffed a free header in front of goal after Dimitri Petratos' free-kick.

The home side went ahead on the half-hour mark as playmaker Petratos whipped in a perfectly-weighted free-kick from a wide position that was turned in by the glancing header of captain Boogaard.

Duncan made two good saves to preserve the lead, keeping out Berisha's low drive and then reacting quickly to prevent a strong breeze blowing a corner into the net.

Victory saw keeper Lawrence Thomas stretchered off in the 55th minute after suffering an apparent concussion during a heavy collision with Andrew Nabbout, being replaced by Matt Acton.

Duncan then saved a Kosta Barbarouses shot and less than a minute after Berisha's close-range header flashed wide, the Jets doubled their advantage when, from a quick counter-attack, Nabbout's low cross was turned home at the far post by substitute McGree.

The Jets are 17/10 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 6/4 with the draw 12/5.

Newcastle are 12/1 to win 1-0.

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