NEWCASTLE Jets coach Ernie Merrick confirmed the A-League club would return to Port Macquarie next year after more than 4000 people attended Regional Stadium on Tuesday night.
On the field, the Jets proved far too good for two Football Mid North Coast Select sides, scoring seven goals in the process.
The club was “blown away” by the support of the local community for the match, with the final figure of 4100 spectators exceeding expectations.
“We certainly will be returning to Port Macquarie next year and it will be a major part of our pre-season every year,” Merrick said.
The northern zone side was hammered 5-0 by the Jets in the first half, before the southern zone were far more competitive in the second half.
The Jets could only manage two goals in the second 45 – one each to new signings Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Roy O’Donovan – as they found the southern zone side difficult to break down.
Devante Clut scored a first-half brace, while Joe Champness, Ivan Vujica and Nick Cowburn also added their names to the scoresheet.
Merrick said it was difficult to single out any of the Jets squad, most of which had at least 15 minutes on the park.
“I thought all the boys played very well and the goal scorers were proud of themselves,” he said.
“Devante scored two and there was a terrific goal from Roy at the end which showed his quality.”
Cowburn’s 25-metre thunderbolt was the pick of the goals, with his strike nestling in the top left corner, but Vujica’s goal excited everyone the most as he charged to the bench and high-fived his coach.
“Ivan never scores goals so he celebrated his in style,” Merrick said.
Injuries to Mario Shabow and Jake Adelson slightly overshadowed the Jets performance.
“Adelson we’re not too sure about at this stage – it could be a cartilage tear – but we’ll send him back to Newcastle to have a scan,” Merrick said.
The Jets head to Tamworth tomorrow to continue their pre-season tour, before they wrap up the tour of regional NSW with a visit to Singleton on the way back to Newcastle.
Port Macquarie has set the standard that will be difficult to top.