A-League: Mark Jones targets better start for misfiring Jets

IN CONTENTION: Chinese import Ma Leilei could be in line for his first start with the Newcastle Jets against the Melbourne Victory on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

IN CONTENTION: Chinese import Ma Leilei could be in line for his first start with the Newcastle Jets against the Melbourne Victory on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

THE Newcastle Jets are yet to concede a goal in the second half of a game this season.

Of the nine goals they have scored, six have been crafted after the break.

In terms of fitness, coach Mark Jones will back his side to finish strong every time.

It has been the start of the game which has been the problem.

It’s an area that Jones is desperate to improve against the Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Saturday.

“We have run over the top of pretty much everyone,” Jones said. “That puts us in good stead to play out games and be dangerous. But it is about starting a little better and being confident when it is nil-nil. We get back to 1-1 and we are extremely confident. We need to back ourselves from the start. It is about confidence on the ball and being able to keep the ball in tight areas. We seem to do it once we get a bit of confidence. We have been trying to put our finger on why we haven’t been confident from the get go.”

The Jets came back from 2-0 down to draw with Wanderers in round two and 1-0 down to share the points with the Mariners on Sunday. They could – and probably should – have also at least grabbed an equaliser in a 2-1 loss to Melbourne City.

“Against Melbourne City we had a glorious opportunity to start well,” Jones said. “Again on the weekend, we had some opportunities to get in behind and get on a roll. For whatever reason we have not taken opportunities or been inspired or confident in the first 20-30 minutes of games.”

The Jets are one of a few teams to boast a positive record against the Victory – winning 11 and losing eight.

And despite a unprecedented injury list – losing seven players in seven rounds – Jones is upbeat about their chances against a Victory outfit fresh from a fortnight off and boosted by the return of Marco Rojas.

Either Ma Leilei or Andy Brennan will replace Andrew Nabbout (ankle) in the only likely change to side from last round.

“We have always gone down there with a bit of belief,” Jones said. “We will go down there and try and play. I back us to score against anyone. If we keep a clean sheet, I’m confident we can play through Victory and create some opportunities.”

Victory coach Kevin Muscat is expecting anything but an easy day out.

“They've had some very good results so far this season,” he said. "There's a certain unpredictability about them. They're capable.”

Unlike Jones, Muscat has options aplenty, especially in the front third.

“Mitch Austin's start to the season has been exceptional," he said. "Fahid (Ben Khalfallah) has shown glimpses in his last game. Good glimpses. Jai (Ingham) comes off the bench (against Western Sydney) and has an unbelievable impact on the game, sets one up after scoring one. And then Maxi who's joined us comes on and scores as well. It's what you want. It's got to be healthy, competition, and decisions will be made on what's best for the team.”

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