THE LOWEDOWN: One goal changes the lot

Join David Lowe's live blog, Streaming Jets, during the Newcastle Jets v Sydney FC A-League clash this Saturday night at theherald.com.au

THEY say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that was never more evident than in the post-match comments of rival coaches Gary van Egmond and Ricki Herbert after Sunday’s clash in Wellington.

‘‘I thought we actually created some good chances in the first 15 minutes and I felt for the mainstay we looked to control the game even when we went down to 10 men,’’  Jets  coach van Egmond offered.

Opposing coach Herbert saw it a little differently.

 ‘‘I kind of thought there was only one team in it today. I didn’t think they offered a lot and we threw away two points, more than got  one.’’

Whatever your take on those comments, and I have to admit I haven’t had such an ironic chuckle since I read that Jobe Wheelhouse enjoyed ‘‘board support’’  in terms of his retention by the club, you have to admire the ability of coaches to find a positive.

It’s amazing just how much one kick, or in this case header of the ball, can change your perspective.

At 1-0 down, and reduced to 10 men, the bloggers were declaring trips to New Zealand  a waste of time, the tactics and effort were being questioned.

Did you miss David's live blog during Sunday's match? Catch up here.

Barely had your columnist cautioned that despite their current predicament and recent history in Wellington, ‘‘the Jets are only one kick of the ball away from salvation’’, than on  cue  referee Ben Williams sends off Phoenix defender Tony Lochhead, restoring  numerical parity, and  lo  and behold the Jets equalise from the ensuing free kick.

Suddenly the world is a brighter place, everyone is anticipating a Jets  winner, and coaches and players are talking about ‘‘different mentality this year’’, and ‘‘you get confidence from that, don’t you’’.

The Jets should be happy with the point they salvaged, because if I’m being honest, that’s what they did, salvage a point. And given their record in Wellington there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I can’t say that I saw the Jets control the game, in fact I’m sure that it was played on the Phoenix’s terms for the majority of the match.

The midfield was for the most part bypassed by the Phoenix in the first half, so  the collective pressure the Jets like to apply in that area was rendered ineffective. Instead the Phoenix made runs beyond the Jets’ back four, rewarded those runs with some decent long passes, and got into crossing areas behind the fullbacks far too regularly for the Jets’ comfort.

The contrast between that approach  and the one employed by Brisbane a fortnight ago,  as they  persisted in trying to play through an ultra-compact Jets, was  revealing, and one which Sydney coach Frank Farina should have noted.

His marquee man Alessandro Del Piero  twigged to it in the last clash between the two teams at Hunter Stadium, playing three or four telling through-balls, and generally looking to exploit space beyond the Jets’ back four.

It is likely to be a vastly different game for the Jets this week.  You would envisage them having more controlled possession at home for a start, but Sydney,  despite their 3-1 loss to the Melbourne Victory at the weekend,  are a more dangerous opponent than they were six weeks ago.

Former Jets favourite Joel Griffiths has scored two in two games,  will test any prospective high defensive line with his movement, and deflect a little bit of defensive concentration away from Del Piero.

At the other end a rejigged Sydney defence will have to deal with the physical presence of Heskey, who is  the only player in the league who would have scored the goal he did in Wellington, and the pace the Jets have in wide areas.

As  van Egmond intimated last week, the Jets’ destiny is very much in their own hands with home fixtures against their closest rivals for a top six spot – Sydney this Saturday, Melbourne Heart a fortnight later, and Brisbane on the 22nd.

In between is a tough trip to Campbelltown to take on the West Sydney  Wanderers next weekend.

 The very important month of  February   will be rounded out by a rescheduled midweek return trip to Wellington on  the  27th, in what may  prove to be a pivotal, hectic week.

The Jets’ semi-final status may well be determined by then, and so too will the futures of a number of players coming off contract.

My earlier mention of ‘‘the irony’’ of captain Jobe Wheelhouse enjoying ‘‘board support’’ had nothing to do with Newcastle’s longest-serving player, rather the fact that the Jets’ board ceased to exist months ago.  Having support,  I assume, means one person likes you.

It will be interesting to see what impact the retirement of Vince Grella  at Melbourne Heart has on the Wheelhouse situation.   

Continued speculation over Wheelhouse’s future will not help the atmosphere around the club, despite his professional attitude and  unwavering dedication, and many curious eyes will be cast towards von Egmond’s starting  XI  this week  for any semblance of clues.

With Ruben Zadkovich available again, but Sam Gallaway suspended, how will van Egmond set out his team? Will Craig Goodwin play at left back? Will Josh Mitchell return centrally, with Scott Neville switching to the left and Taylor Regan going to right back? Will Josh Brilliante go to left back and leave Wheelhouse and Zadkovich  in central midfield? Will Zenon Caravella get more game time?

Though a footballer would never publicly admit it, is Caravella  perhaps  ruing  leaving Adelaide a week before John Kosmina’s sudden resignation as coach?  Probably doesn’t matter now.

Oh, and  I heard a rumour a week ago   that former Adelaide assistant coach Phil  Stubbins  would be coaching the Reds next season.

Will there by any more ins and outs in the playing ranks at all clubs before the transfer window closes?

It’s a crazy, vitally important time of the season, with negotiations, wheeling and dealing and crucial games thrown into the A-League melting pot.

Few games, however,  will be more important than Saturday’s blockbuster, Jets  versus  Sydney, for determining the semi-final prospects of both clubs.

Join David Lowe's live blog, Streaming Jets, during the Newcastle Jets v Sydney FC A-League clash this Saturday night at theherald.com.au

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop