Central Coast has come from behind to draw 1-1 with Newcastle, denying the Jets a return to the A-League’s top six and a first home F3 derby win in 1,590 days.
Aleksandr Kokko scored his maiden A-League goal to put the hosts ahead early but Scott Galloway made them pay for a sloppy start to the second half at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
The result — a seventh consecutive draw between the NSW rivals at this venue — thwarted the Jets’ bid to leapfrog sixth-placed Western Sydney on goal difference.
It also leaves the Mariners four points outside the six and up against it to pull off an unlikely finals berth.
The opening goal had been a long time coming for Kokko. The Finn promised big things but has been held back by injuries and poor form that saw him dropped and even offered up for sale in January.
But seven months after his playful pre-season “we’ll see who’s better” challenge to Socceroos legend Tim Cahill, the 29-year-old finally put his money where his mouth is with a 20th-minute header in just his fourth start.
Jason Hoffman delivered the pin-point long ball for Morten Nordstrand, who beat Liam Rose to the byline and crossed for his fellow Scandinavian.
Met with minimal defensive pressure, Kokko headed past Paul Izzo from close range.
The Jets’ counter-attacking domination continued, even as Hoffman delivered a boot to Kwabena Appiah’s head and sparked a heated push and shove.
However, the Mariners ended the first half in possession, fashioning three chances in five minutes as Fabio Ferreira and Connor Pain flashed shots marginally wide and high, before Nick Montgomery drew a save from nervy debutant Jets goalkeeper Tomislav Arcaba.
A sluggish Jets side returned after the break and were promptly punished.
It came from an unlikely source in Galloway, who pounced on the scraps from a corner and squared the ledger with a 20-yard strike through a throng of players.
That spurred the hosts back into action and Newcastle enjoyed a string of open runs in on goal, which they failed to capitalise on, before Arcaba stretched high to deny Ferreira a winner.