JASON Hoffman’s transformation into a strike weapon continued with a well-taken goal as the Newcastle Jets came from behind to draw 2-all with the Central Coast Mariners in a friendly at Maitland Sportsground on Saturday.
Most of the attention of the 4000 fans was on Mariner’s triallist Usain Bolt, who cooled his heels in the dugout as a spectator.
The world’s fastest man, who hopes to win a contract with the Mariners, trained with the rehabilitation group Saturday mornring and is expected to make his debut against a Central Coast select side next Friday.
The Jets suffered a blow in the warm-up, losing Ben Kantarovski to a calf issue.
Noah James also deputised in goal for Glen Moss, who had an illness in the family.
The Mariners stretched the Jets early and took the lead in the 10th minute through a Jack Clisby freekick. The defender curled a shot from the left which caught the young keeper by surprise and dipped under the bar.
The Jets grew as the half progressed. Dimi Petratos and Ronny Vargas started to get their foot on the ball and passes started to stick.
Hoffman, who scored five goals last season, was denied by a brilliant reflex save from Ben Kennedy in the 32nd minute.
The striker wouldn’t be denied a second time in the 40th minute. Nick Cowburn burst down the right and delivered a low cross to the back post where Hoffman had made a run and tapped in.
James made up for his early lapse with a number of brilliant saves.
Roy O’Donovan replaced Hoffman after 60 minutes and two minutes later put the Jets ahead.
Daniel Georgievski made a run down the left and crossed for O’Donovan to head home.
Jets coach Ernie Merrick cleared the bench and a minute later Connor Pain equalised with a stunning strike from the edge of the box.
The Jets play Melbourne City in the FFA Cup on Wednesday.