Heart record overdue win against the Jets

Melbourne Heart have avoided the ignominy of setting a record 20-game winless run in the A-League by beating the Newcastle Jets 3-1 at AAMI Park on Friday.

Melbourne Heart have avoided the ignominy of setting a record 20-game winless run in the A-League by beating the Newcastle Jets 3-1 at AAMI Park on Friday.

The hosts trailed to Taylor Regan’s opener and looked set to surpass the sorry streak of 19 matches without tasting victory which they share with the defunct New Zealand Knights.

But goals from Iain Ramsay and Mate Dugandzic in the shadows of half-time, followed by a second from the former Melbourne Victory man mid-way through the second half, sealed a long-awaited triumph for the club, which sacked John Aloisi and replaced him with former coach John van ‘t Schip earlier this month in a bid to end the nightmare sequence of results.

The Jets, although under-strength, must now ask themselves how they managed to become the first team since Sydney FC in February 2013 to lose to the competition’s whipping boys.

It was stinking hot in Melbourne all day leading up to kick-off and the two teams, at least initially, produced football to match, both in terms of tempo and quality.

The Jets, missing four first-team regulars due to international duty and without another two long-term injury victims, struggled to mount a single notable foray forward in the first 30 minutes.

The Heart were close to full strength, and able to finally name Orlando Engelaar on the bench after his recovery from a broken leg suffered in pre-season. But the malaise which has affected the team all season remained alive and well, as they were limited to long-range shots from Ramsay and Harry Kewell.

The Jets meanwhile had even less to show for their efforts, and appeared to surprise even themselves when centre-back Regan headed home the opening goal – his first after four seasons in the A-League – completely unmarked from a corner in the 37th minute.

A cool change in the late afternoon had provided some relief from the heat, and if that wasn’t enough, two minutes after the goal, the heavens opened, doubtless refreshing the players but sending supporters fleeing for the stadium’s covered seating.

The downpour seemingly had a cleansing effect on the previously hapless Heart. In the 44th minute, Ramsay collected Kewell’s headed knockdown, controlling the ball on his chest before volleying home with the aid of a deflection off Jets defender Kew Jaliens.

While that was unexpected, only the most optimistic of home fans would have predicted what happened next.

A minute into first-half injury time left-back Aziz Behich advanced almost as far as the byline, before swinging in a cross which Dugandzic, inexplicably left unattended by the Jets defence, stooped low to head beyond helpless Newcastle goalkeeper Mark Birighitti.

From trailing 1-0 and seemingly on course for a record 20th consecutive match without a win, the Heart somehow found themselves going in at the break with a rare, priceless lead.

Half-time robbed the game of momentum, prompting a return to the questionable fare of the opening stages. For the first 22 minutes of the second half there was an acute shortage of chances, the biggest cheer arriving with the introduction of Engelaar for his long-awaited Heart debut.

But two minutes later, the sparse crowd did their best to raise the roof, when an exquisite Ramsay pass released Dugandzic in behind the Jets defence to slot home and make it 3-1.

He should have claimed his hat-trick when clean through after another good ball over the top in the 70th minute, only for Birighitti to smother.

Substitute Michael Mifsud also went agonisingly close, narrowly failing to connect with Harry Kewell’s tempting pass across the face of goal during a sustained period of pressure from the home team.

Ultimately the two-goal buffer proved sufficient for the drought to be broken, prompting wild celebrations among supporters – and relieved restraint among players and staff – as the Heart look forward to next Saturday’s away game against Adelaide with renewed optimism.

The Jets meanwhile must lick their wounds and prepare to face local rivals and reigning champions the Central Coast Mariners in the F3 derby on the same day.

Melbourne Heart 3 (Ramsay 44′, Dugandzic 46′, 69′)

Newcastle Jets 1 (Regan 37′)

Crowd: 5046 @ AAMI Park