Jets coach Phil Stubbins paid tribute to his team’s late comeback and described the scorer of Newcastle’s equaliser Lee Ki-Je as a “gem” after a 1-1 with the Wanderers on Saturday.
An injury-time penalty to Korean import helped the Jets snatch a 1-1 draw with Western Sydney at Hunter Stadium.
The Wanderers were on track for all three points when Brendon Santalab gave them the lead from the penalty spot four minutes from the end after former Wanderer Daniel Mullen handled in the area.
But the home side won a spot kick of their own two minutes into stoppage time after Radovan Pavicevic’s volley struck the arm of Antony Golec.
Ki-Je kept his nerve to score and ensure the Jets remain one-point ahead of the Wanderers, who are rooted to the bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder.
“Extremely happy for the group. It’s fantastic for everybody,” said a relieved Stubbins after the game.
“It’s an indication to the supporters that we’re trying to get people on board who want to play in the right way for us.
“It’s a credit to them that they came back.”
The under-fire Jets coach added he didn’t have an issue with the penalty conceded against Mullen. But the way the Jets didn’t drop their heads was something the Englishman was ecstatic about.
“It was a blow but we stayed positive… we’re not complaining about the penalty being given.
“And then we did what we did creating that situation that resulted in the penalty.”
Stubbins added he’d put Ki-Ji on set-piece duties but had “forgotten” to assign penalty takers. Luckily for the coach, the Korean stepped up and scored confidently.
“It’s great to see Ki-Ji finally have a run for the team. To score the goal like he did and perform like he did, would suggest to everyone we’ve got our own gem there at 23 years of age,” Stubbins said.
“Technically we’ve got a wonderful player.”
The Jets coach conceded the attacking third needs to create more chances and to score more freely, but was happy with the tightening up of the back four.
However he wasn’t quite ready to say Saturday’s result was a turning point in their dire season of results and off-field turmoil.
“We didn’t get the three points but in terms of how the team played I think last week we were terrible unlucky to lose but again, it’s another credit to what we’re preaching to the playing group,” added Stubbins.
“It’s a pat on the back to me, and the group even though it wasn’t a win.”