Roy O’Donovan and his Newcastle Jets A-league side look to have entered an untimely form slump.Sydney FC’s bid for back-to-back A-League titles has been strengthened by the apparent loss of momentum of No.1 contender Newcastle.
While the Sky Blues became the first team to defend the Premiers’ Plate with a comfortable win over Perth on Thursday, the Jets struggled for the third-straight week with a 3-0 loss to Melbourne City on Sunday.
The Jets cannot be moved from second place having recorded 14 wins as they prepare for a first finals appearance since 2010.
But their form with two rounds remaining is worrying after they were taken apart in a superb first-half display by youngster Daniel Arzani on Easter Sunday and conceded three set-piece goals.
Since star striker Andrew Nabbout headed overseas, Newcastle have recorded a scratchy 1-0 win over cellar-dwellers Wellington a fortnight ago and were humbled 5-2 by Adelaide United last week.
They failed to make the most of the returns of experienced attackers Dimi Petratos and Roy O’Donovan in an insipid display against City.
“We peaked very early (and have) hit a bit of a stumbling block,” O’Donovan told Fox Sports.
“We have players coming back. There’s positives to take.
“Melbourne City took their chances. We lost a game, no big deal.”
Sydney meanwhile flexed their muscles in locking away their second-straight premiership by beating the Glory 3-2, scoring three clinical goals in the first half.
The win takes the Sky Blues to 58 points and 60 goals for the season, 11 points clear of the Jets with games against Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory remaining.
“I am a very proud man tonight but we are not done yet, obviously,” coach Graham Arnold said.
“We’ve had two wonderful years. Last season we won the competition by 17 points, we are 11 ahead now and we’ve had a fair personnel turnover.
“We’ve lost (Danny) Vukovic, (Filip) Holosko, (Milos) Dimitrijevic and Rhyan Grant, so we’ve had to refresh the squad.
“They’ve just done fantastically well and that’s our second goal ticked for the season.”
City regained third spot held briefly by fourth-placed Victory, who secured their finals place with a gritty 3-1 win over Western Sydney.
The Victory were the more composed in a drama-filled match in which both teams had a player sent off late in the first half to underline their title credentials.
The seventh-placed Wanderers face a potentially season-defining clash with Brisbane at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, with the Roar on a four-match unbeaten streak to rise to sixth.
Brisbane, who previously had appeared destined for the bottom four, came away with a scrappy 1-0 victory over the Central Coast on Saturday.
“It’s a final for both teams,” Wanderers coach Josep Gombau said.
“We are now seven, they are six. It’s a big, big game.
“Playing at home, if we put the intensity that we put today for sure we can get the result and win the game.”