NEWCASTLE Jets are confident they can beat any team in the A-League – but admit their finals hopes hinge on getting ruthless in defence.
While the Jets have been enterprising with the ball this season, scoring 20 goals in 14 games, they have conceded 24 – including eight in their past three starts.
Only once have they kept their opponents scoreless, in the 4-0 demolition of Brisbane in round two.
In 11 of their games, Newcastle’s opposition have scored first.
After Sunday’s gutsy 3-2 win against Brisbane, Jets coach Mark Jones’ only concern was that “we’re still conceding too many goals”.
His thoughts were echoed on Wednesday by skipper and central defender Nigel Boogaard, who expects his teammates to show extra urgency in protecting their net on Sunday when they play host to enigmatic Perth Glory.
“Our focus now is Perth on the weekend, and making sure we’re at our best, because we honestly believe if we execute our game plan, we can beat any team in the league,’’ Boogaard said.
“Obviously a key thing for us on the weekend is to make sure we get a clean sheet. We’re always going to create chances, and I believe we can score against anyone.
“It’s a matter of not giving the opposition any chances, and definitely trying to keep clean sheets and making that against record a bit better.’’
Sydney lead the league with eight clean sheets this season, ahead of Wellington and Melbourne Victory (four), Adelaide and Brisbane (three), Melbourne City (two), the Jets, Perth and Central Coast (one) and Western Sydney (none).
“If you keep a clean sheet, you can’t lose,’’ Boogaard said.
“It’s massive for us and that’s something we need to work on.
“So showing a bit more desperation, and being a bit more clever in and around the box and making sure we don’t concede, is a big thing for us.
“We’ve got confidence that, going forward, we’re always going to hurt teams.
“We just need to give those boys a chance up front to go on and win the game, and make sure that at the back, we do our job.’’
Boogaard’s central-defensive partner on Sunday will again be 21-year-old Lachlan Jackson, who capped off a man-of-the-match display against Brisbane by earning a two-year contract extension.
“We want to keep a clean sheet, but at most [conceding] one goal a game is our aim,’’ Jackson said.