Newcastle coach Carl Robinson was left to lament his side's habit of conceding goals early in halves as Melbourne Victory fought back to draw 1-1 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
The Jets were in control in the first half of the A-League contest and led 1-0, but Victory caught the Newcastle defence napping in the 49th minute to equalise. Tim Hoogland crossed to find captain Ola Toivonen at the back post and the Swede buried his header despite the presence of three Jets defenders.
Victory, backing up from a midweek 1-0 Asian Champions League loss to FC Seoul in Korea, took their winless streak in the A-League to six games but they stayed ahead of Newcastle by two points. Ninth-placed Victory went to 17 points, nine outside the top six, with eight games remaining.
Robinson, in first home game in charge, said he couldn't fault his players' effort, and attitude but he was frustrated by Toivonen's goal after warning the squad not to switch off early in halves.
"It's a great delivery into the box and a good goal by Toivonen but from a defensive point of view we should stop that," Robinson said. "There wasn't enough pressure on the ball and we let a man who's very, very good in the box free, and he scores."
Victory coach Carlos Salvachua changed his formation and asked his side to press higher in defence at half-time and he was pleased with the result.
"There was a big difference between the performance and the attitude in the first half to the second," Salvachua said. "[In the first half] their midfielders controlled the game and we were just a little bit crazy, looking for the ball.
"Second half we start to press high, we were more aggressive, and we have chances to score another goal."
The Jets dominated early but they looked headed for a frustrating night after striker Abdiel Arroyo twice had goals ruled out. The Panamanian toed in a ball from Angus Thurgate in the eighth minute but the pass had deflected off referee Alireza Faghani. Arroyo then headed in a Dimi Petratos cross in the 16th minute but the goal was disallowed for offside.
The breakthrough came in the 24th minute when Petratos was in behind again and he squared the ball to Roy O'Donovan, who hit it into the underside of the crossbar from close range. Play continued after the ball rebounded into play until a VAR check confirmed O'Donovan's strike had crossed the goal line.
Irish striker Wes Hoolahan made his long-awaited A-League debut for Newcastle in the 62nd minute and he almost gave his side a chance to go ahead two minutes later. He played a clever through ball to Matt Millar, who was felled close to goal but appeals for a penalty were ignored.