JETS coach Gary van Egmond appears certain to stick with the starting side that kept them in the finals frame with a 2-0 victory over Melbourne Heart at Hunter Stadium on Friday.
Van Egmond’s decision to start veteran former Leeds striker Michael Bridges, Socceroo Adam Taggart and dynamic central defender Taylor Regan proved a masterstroke as the Jets hit the ground running, bubbled with enthusiasm and were in control for long periods.
Scoring early through Emile Heskey and late through Ryan Griffiths, Newcastle registered their first win in five weeks and second since before Christmas to leapfrog the Heart and return to the top six.
One point adrift of fifth-placed Sydney FC, who beat fourth-placed Adelaide 2-1 at Hunter Stadium, the Jets (26 points) are sixth with six games left.
Did you miss David Lowe's live blog of the Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Heart clash? Catch up here and join him this Friday for the Jets v Brisbane Roar.
Speaking shortly after full-time against the Heart, van Egmond gave every indication that he was not planning changes other than those forced by injury for the game against two-time defending champions Brisbane at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
The coach said Heskey (hip flexor) and man-of-the-match Zenon Caravella (hamstring) would be assessed by the club’s medical staff after being replaced in the last 15 minutes, but he was confident they would play against the Roar.
‘‘Oh look, after that type of performance, obviously it’s pretty plain to see that the team did extremely well, so, unless we get people injured, and we had a couple there at the end ... ,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘A couple of others got some bumps and bruises here and there, but I envisage that they should all be fit for next week’s game.’’
Van Egmond said last night that Taggart and captain Ruben Zadkovich did not train yesterday to rest minor injuries, ‘‘but I don’t think we’ll have anyone who won’t play’’.
He said players would have to be properly managed and given enough rest and recovery time to handle the team’s busy schedule of four games in a 15-day stretch.
After the game against Brisbane, the Jets play the Phoenix in Wellington on February 27, Victory in Melbourne on March 3 and Glory in Newcastle on March 8.
Van Egmond said Craig Goodwin and James Virgili, who came off the bench in the final minutes against the Heart, were entitled to feel hard done by but his experienced players were in the right frame of mind at the right time of the season.
‘‘They’ve done extremely well as young boys coming through, but what these older players have done, in regards to Bridgey and even Taggs to a degree, is the fact that they seem to have a lot more confidence right here at this moment,’’ he said.
‘‘You can see some of these other players might not have that right at this moment.’’
The three-point return against the Heart was Newcastle’s first since a 1-0 home win against Brisbane on January 12.
In-form fullback Sam Gallaway is clear to play against the Roar, contrary to reports he had accumulated five yellow cards and would be suspended.
A Football Federation Australian spokesman clarified yesterday that Gallaway had accumulated three cards, not five, because the two that earned him a red against Wellington three weeks ago did not count towards his overall tally.
FFA’s A-League disciplinary guidelines stipulate that players who accumulate five yellow cards between rounds one and 21 – the game against the Heart was round 21 – must serve a mandatory one-game suspension. But according to section 5.5 in the infringements category of those guidelines, ‘‘if a player receives two yellow cards during the same A-League match and therefore receives a red card, the two yellow cards do not count for the purposes of accumulation’’.
Gallaway received yellow cards in the 32nd and 54th minutes of Newcastle’s 1-1 draw with the Phoenix in Wellington on January 27, and the subsequent red card meant he was suspended from their 2-2 draw with Sydney FC on February 2.
He received a yellow card in the 17th minute against the Heart on Friday after receiving yellow cards against the Heart on January 1 and Victory on December 28.
Van Egmond and Jets chief executive Robbie Middleby said they expected FFA to confirm Gallaway’s status today.