Western United and Newcastle Jets fought out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Mars Stadium in Ballarat on Sunday evening, United’s first home match in the region this season.
Lachie Wales scored an excellent curling strike in the 13th minute before Newcastle found the net in similarly outstanding fashion through Daniel Stynes moments later.
Either side could have stolen the win in the end but there were no further goals to be added in the second half, as United finished with 10 men after Jacob Tratt received a straight red card.
There were two changes to John Aloisi’s starting XI with Dylan Pierias rewarded for a shining cameo last week against Melbourne City, named for his first start of the season.
Jacob Tratt came into the line-up in defence to replace the injured Ben Garuccio, while Neil Kilkenny started in midfield once again, making his 150th appearance in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men.
The game started at a blistering pace with Jamie Young forced to make a sharp save on his goal line to deny Jaushua Sotirio within 40 seconds.
There were chances at both ends with six shots on target within the opening 10 minutes, one of which came from a wide free kick from Kilkenny that Jack Duncan did well to tip over the crossbar.
United soon took the lead after Young had made another impressive stop from Sotirio and it was a lovely opener for the fans in Ballarat to enjoy.
After linking up along with Risdon and Connor Pain, Wales took one touch to cut in on his right foot at the top of the box and unleash a searing finish into the top right corner.
It was a lovely strike but it might well have been topped just four minutes later as Stynes scored from just outside the box, setting the strike just outside the post and watching it bend back into the net.
The match continued in its fast-paced fashion with chances at both ends as Pain had United’s best for the remainder of the half, drawing a smart low save from Duncan.
Western United seized more control in the second half, putting together greater chains of possession as the side tried to regain the lead.
Pierias continued to look lively down the right-hand side but while Aloisi’s side added more possession into its game, the chances at either end seemed to dry up.
Probably the biggest chance of the half fell to Newcastle’s Trent Buhagiar. After the Jets broke on a counter down their left wing, Buhagiar got on the end of a cross at the back post but fired his close-range effort wide.
Western United was reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes remaining when Tratt stretched to make a challenge on Beka Mikeltadze but made contact with the Georgian and was sent off for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, United still sought a winner in the match and came close twice in quick succession moments later.
A deep free-kick from Kilkenny sent the ball into a dangerous area near the penalty spot and substitute Noah Botic rose to meet it, only for Duncan to spring into the air and tip it onto the crossbar and out for a corner.
The resultant set piece was again whipped in invitingly by Kilkenny and this time found Leo Lacroix at the near post, and the Swiss centre-back very nearly repeated the feat from last year of scoring against Newcastle in Ballarat, but his header was once again denied by Duncan.
In the end, both sides would have settle for a draw in a game which either side could well have won, with the point ensuring United remains within touching distance of the top six.