A-League: Newcastle 2 Melbourne Heart 0
The Newcastle Jets leapt back into the top six with a strong 2-0 win over Melbourne Heart at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond paired Emile Heskey and Michael Bridges for the first time this season, starting the former EPL players in behind Socceroo Adam Taggart and the tactical change paid off as Newcastle looked much more dangerous in front of goal as they outplayed Heart for the majority.
Heskey opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a wonderful striker before Griffiths sealed the win with a smart goal 10 minutes from the final whistle.
Heart striker Eli Babalj threatened every time he got the ball, rattling the post in the 25th minute but for the most part, Heart were forced to attack on the counter.
The Jets dictated play from the outset and went ahead in the 10th minute courtesy of a thundering strike from Heskey. Ryan Griffiths pierced an intelligent ball into the box for the former England international who slammed a right-foot strike from 15 metres out that squeezed under heart goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne and into the net.
The Heart almost struck back three minutes later when Jonathan Germano lobbed a ball over the top for Babalj who streaked into space and took the ball into the box but fired his shot from an acute angle into the side netting.
Newcastle continued to look the more productive side and they engineered a couple of chances through the middle of the park. Left fullback Sam Gallaway had a shot blocked by Jeremy Walker after a penetrating run from his own half while Redmayne did well to get down low to save a shot from Taggart after an industrious build-up.
Heart should have equalised in the 25th minute when Richard Garcia was put into space down the right wing with a delightful switched ball by Nick Kalmar. Garcia crossed into the back post where an unmarked Babalj sent his volley clattering into the post.
Zenon Caravella and Bridges had half chances for the home side before Babalj forced a sharp save from Birighitti right on the stroke of half-time to see the sides head to the sheds with Newcastle leading 1-0.
Jets skipper Ruben Zadkovich had the first chance of the second half in the 50th minute when he collected the ball 25 metres out after a patient build-up and fired a vicious right-footed shot just wide of the far post.
Zadkovich went close again a few moments later when he dispossessed Simon Colosimo just 30 metres out from goal and took the ball to the edge of the area before slicing a low shot just wide of the far post.
Heart coach John Aloisi went to his bench bringing on Fred and Marcel Meeuwis for Kalmar and Germano. For the most part the visitors were still forced to attack on the counter, but looked dangerous when they did.
David Williams had his shot blocked by Taylor Regan after a good run down the left flank before Babalj shot wide after being put into space by Matt Thompson.
Down the other end Taggart almost snatched his first goal for the Jets when he was allowed to run across the 18-yard line before firing a right-footed shot that beat Redmayne but smacked into the post before the heart.
The Jets sealed the match 10 minutes from full-time when Taggart put an intelligent ball through for Griffiths who streaked into the box before lobbing a shot over Redmayne for his ninth goal of the season and to secure a vital three points for the Newcastle side.