Jets must rise to Phoenix challenge

FORGET two-time champions Brisbane Roar. Forget arch enemies Central Coast. Forget Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory and Perth. 

Tomorrow’s opponents, Wellington Phoenix, are Newcastle’s bogey team. Daylight second.

The Jets enter the clash at Hunter Stadium, which will be attended by new Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop, having lost the past five games to the men from across the ditch. The margin is an incredible 13-2.

In fact, you have to go back to November 20, 2010 – three days shy of two years – for the Jets’ last victory over the Nix, a 1-0 triumph at Hunter Stadium. Marko Jesic scored the winner in the 55th minute.

In 16 encounters the Jets have recorded four wins, one draw and 11 losses.

Gary van Egmond has been in charge for the past two defeats.

 ‘‘Last year we probably dominated the game but got done on the result,’’  van Egmond said.

‘‘The defensive side of things is where we have to ensure we are on our game.

‘‘Making sure when our fullbacks go forward or midfielders go forward, we get the balance with regard to our rest defence well and truly spot on – ensuring we have enough numbers and are in the right position to counter the counter if you like.’’

Although dismissing any chance of a repeat of the fireworks from the pre-season game, van Egmond said it was vital the Jets stood up.

‘‘Most games you need to win the battle to earn the right to play,’’ he said.

‘‘You can’t be seen to be second to the ball or not come out of 50-50 challenges without the ball.’’

The Phoenix  travel to Hunter Stadium after three straight losses.

In contrast, the Jets have notched four wins from six games to sit in third place on 12 points, a point behind Adelaide and the Mariners.

Although indicating he was unlikely to change formation, van Egmond will not finalise the starting side until after training today. 

Craig Goodwin (shin) did not train yesterday. 

On the positive side, Dominik Ritter (quadriceps) got through the session and the Young Socceroos – Josh Brillante, Adam Taggart, Connor Chapman, Mitch Oxborrow and Jack Duncan – ran with the youth team last night after arriving back from the United Arab Emirates.

Five of the Phoenix starting side and coach Ricki Herbert have been in Shanghai with the All Whites, who drew 1-all against China on Wednesday, and were only reunited with their clubmates last night.

‘‘It is probably not the ideal preparation,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘We have seen that with other teams and they have still come here and played well.

‘‘We know they will play a 4-4-2, which tends to go into a 4-3-3 at times.

‘‘They have some wonderful players who have good improvisation in their game.

‘‘The likes of Paul Ifill, the two players up front, the young boy Fenton is doing well.

‘‘We know they will be a difficult proposition but we have had a good look at them and have some contingencies.’’

Former Jets striker Jeremy Brockie played 25 minutes off the bench against the Chinese.

‘‘We caught an overnight flight which arrived in Sydney yesterday morning and then travelled up to Newcastle with the rest of the team when they arrived late afternoon,’’ Brockie told the Herald yesterday.

‘‘We will train together tomorrow and be right to go Sunday.’’

The Jets’ equal leading goal-scorer last season with nine, Brockie hit the target 18 times for the Phoenix in the pre-season but took until round five to get off the mark in the season proper.

‘‘It was big relief to get that first goal,’’ Brockie said.

‘‘It wasn’t from a lack of chances. The shots were either just wide or stopped by good goalkeeping.

‘‘Hopefully now I can get on a roll.’’

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