THREE wins from five games.
That will be enough, coach Mark Jones estimates, for the Newcastle Jets to reach the play-offs for the first time in seven seasons.
As they prepare for the make-or-break phase of their campaign, the Jets are eighth on the ladder, three points behind sixth-placed Western Sydney.
After Saturday’s clash with Melbourne City at AAMI Park, they play Wellington (away), Wanderers (home), Central Coast (away) and runaway leaders Sydney (away) in the last game of the regular season.
Given that Newcastle have won only five of 22 games this season – and are winless in their past five starts – it would appear the odds are stacked against them.
But Jones has challenged his troops to “stand up” and consistently perform at the level that earned them impressive victories against Brisbane, Perth and City before the end of January.
“I think we needed to win three out of eight to make it, and now we’re three out of five,’’ Jones said.
“So don’t miss your moment … [but] there’s plenty of time. There’s five games left.
“You win all five, and who knows where you end up. We’d like to think that we’re in a position to win three of those games, and if we can get something out of the other couple, that bodes well for us making the top six.’’
The Jets have had 12 days to reflect on their 3-1 loss to Brisbane, when they led 1-0 before defender Jason Hoffman was controversially sent off – a decision Jones maintains cost his team a likely win.
“One game doesn’t change the way we feel, and our positive attitude and our belief that we can make the six,’’ Jones said.
Jones said Newcastle “should and can make the six, and I’d be disappointed to miss out after being so close for the second half of the year.”
He said “people need to stand up”, and his decision to recall skipper Nigel Boogaard to the starting team would suggest he needs his senior players to lead the way.
“Even the captain isn’t guaranteed a spot, and that’s the way it should be,’’ he said.
“That’s the way in every sport in every country, and that’s the way we need to be … it’s just a friendly reminder that no one’s position is safe, and if you’re a little bit off your game, we have got players on the bench who can step up and do a good job.’’
Jones said Newcastle would be looking to emulate their 2-1 win against City on January 27.
“I think they’ve played in a similar way and we can play in a similar way,’’ he said.
“It’s about us executing our opportunities, especially on the counter, and doing a job defensively and scrambling and working hard, as we did in Coffs Harbour.’’