The Jets have lost two pre-season games against the sides who finished a point above them at the foot of the A-League ladder last season, but coach Ernie Merrick is not panicking.
Newcastle went down 2-0 to the Mariners on the Central Coast two weeks ago, and their revamped forward line failed to score again in Wednesday’s 1-0 FFA Cup defeat against an understrength Adelaide line-up.
Merrick said he was pleased with some aspects of the team’s play against Adelaide, including their control of possession in midfield.
But he has demanded more attacking commitment from his players since arriving in Newcastle in May and was disappointed with their output against two sides who conceded 98 goals between them last season.
“Comparing it with the game against the Mariners, I thought it was a huge improvement,” Merrick said.
“There was a whole range of areas they stepped up in substantially. But, of course, the most important one was the area we let ourselves down, scoring goals.
“Nine weeks out it’s not too concerning. We’re doing something right, because we had 15 shots to their 11.”
The game highlighted the Jets’ lack of experience outside their first XI, even when at full strength. Devante Clut, himself only 21, was not selected for the trip, leaving teenagers Kosta Petratos and Mario Shabow as attacking options on the bench as they chased the game.
Newcastle had 55 per cent of possession and twice as many shots on target (4-2) as Adelaide. The visitors also hit the woodwork twice and created a good chance for substitute Petratos in the second half.
“It’s not that things aren’t happening,” Merrick said.
“They are happening. They’re just not accurate enough. They’re not frequent enough. It’s an area we’ve really got to improve on.
“We did have twice as many shots as the opposition. If we’d got one, I think we would have gone on. Having said that, it wasn’t their strongest team. They’ve got senior players to come in, but we were away from home. You take everything with a pinch of salt.”
Merrick was unhappy that broadcasters had put a microphone on top of the Jets dugout, picking up his occasional admonition of some players, including Ben Kantarovski.
“I wasn’t disappointed by Ben at all. I was really happy with our holding midfielders, Ben and Steve [Ugarkovic]. Their work rate was incredible. We set them a target of 11km. Both were over 12. So was Dimmy [Petratos], and Wayne Brown’s work rate in the middle was good as well.”
The Jets will tour northern NSW next week, playing against two regional representative squads in Port Macquarie and Tamworth, before proposed trial games in September against Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix in Newcastle.
Melbourne City are also seeking a friendly against the Jets late this month in Victoria.
Meanwhile, global water, waste and energy management company Veolia has signed on as a Jets sleeve sponsor for this season.