The sun was out but the drought is finally over for Newcastle after they blasted to a 3-1 A-League victory over the Wellington Phoenix, despite finishing the game with 10 men.
A modest 7595 fans watched the Jets avoid taking over the defunct New Zealand Knights for the competition’s longest goal drought when maligned striker Milos Trifunovic converted a first-half penalty.
After a wet week in the Hunter, goals on the counter to both Ryan Kitto and David Carney ensured the floodgates remained open.
The dismissal of midfielder Ben Kantarovski meant the Jets were forced to defend for most of the second half, and a late comeback loomed when Phoenix substitute Matthew Ridenton netted off a quick free kick.
But a resolute Jets wall, which blocked six shots, held up long enough to help secure their first win since round four.
Trifunovic’s goal ended a 566-minute drought, falling 41 minutes shy of the Knights’ 607-minute record, set in the 2006.
More importantly, the three points lifts the Jets above the injury-ravaged Phoenix into seventh spot, and just four points adrift of the top six.
Pained by a six-game goal drought, Miller’s decision to change his formation to two strikers proved a masterstroke.
Both Trifunovic and Carney got plenty of ball, and combined for a total seven shots between them.
Captain Nigel Boogard thought he was the one to open the scoring when his second effort was fumbled by Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss over the line.
But referee Jarred Gillett instead pointed to the spot after watching Trifunovic get pulled down as Carney’s fifth minute free kick curled into the area.
Phoenix’s Michael McGlinchey almost equalised after his set piece was tipped over by Mark Birighitti in the 16th minute, a miss that was exacerbated when Kitto doubled the advantage ten minutes later.
The Jets winger was right on the spot when Moss parried Carney’s low slider into Kitto’s path.
The chances continued to come for the hosts in a free-flowing first half, and they almost extended their lead to three when right midfielder Enver Alivodic had his header cleared off the line by Andrew Durante.
Phoenix striker Blake Powell thought he pulled one back on the stroke of halftime, but could only skim the near post.
The game changed when Kantarovski was shown his second yellow card for a dangerous challenge on Vince Lia in the the 58th minute, which followed a caution for his hack on Roly Bonevacia in the first half.
The Jets were forced to defend for most of the second half, but Carney stunned the Phoenix on the counter, showing a clean pair of heels to run onto an Alidovic’s 66th-minute through ball.