Newcastle Jets chase a breakthrough clean sheet against Wellington Phoenix

EXPERIENCE: Newcastle Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard and his teammates will be hoping to keep Wellington Phoenix scoreless at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Darren Pateman, AAP
EXPERIENCE: Newcastle Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard and his teammates will be hoping to keep Wellington Phoenix scoreless at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Darren Pateman, AAP

JETS skipper Nigel Boogaard has no doubt this season’s back four is the best he has played with at Newcastle.

Now they need to prove it, starting on Saturday night when they play host to Wellington Phoenix at McDonald Jones Stadium.

While the Jets have produced their brightest-ever start to a season, racking up two wins and two draws from their first four games, they are yet to keep a clean sheet.

Including last season, when they finished with the wooden spoon, it has been 13 games since they kept an opponent scoreless.

Indeed, only once in the past 25 games have they kept their goal intact.

Fortunately, at the other end of the pitch, Newcastle have been on fire, scoring an A-League-best 10 goals, and for that reason Boogaard is not concerned, saying he would prefer to continue trying to win games than adopt a defensive mindset.

“A clean sheet would be nice but I think the way we’re trying to play, and maybe take a few more risks going forward, I think if you asked the playing squad, we’re always confident we can outscore a team,” Boogaard said.

“We’re mindful that we’d love to keep a clean sheet every week. But if that’s going to deter away from really getting at teams and playing an attacking brand of football, I think we’d rather win 4-3 or 5-3 than 1-0.”

Boogaard is just two games off a career milestone – his 200th A-League appearance. His central-defensive partner, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, has played in 240.

Right back Jason Hoffman, who replaces injured Daniel Georgievski this week, has made 140 appearances.

Georgesvki has 71 games to his name – including Melbourne Victory’s 2014-15 A-League grand final triumph, while left back Ivan Vujica (15 games) is improving with every performance.

“Since I’ve been back, it’s probably the most experienced [back four],” Boogaard said.

“There’s a lot of cohesion there. We’ve also got depth there, there’s a lot of quality players … being able to bring Hoff straight in, like for like.

“Having Nikolai alongside me, with his vast experience, obviously makes it a lot easier for my role.

“But in saying that, it’s only the start of the season. Time will tell, but I’m quietly confident we can do a good job this season if our back four, back six, do our job.”

Boogaard nonetheless conceded that Newcastle will need to lift their game after last week’s 1-all draw with Western Sydney, in which they needed a Dimi Petratos equaliser in the second half.

He said they were “quite sluggish” early and lucky not to face an even larger half-time deficit.

“We possibly could have gone in even more goals behind … it’s about making sure the first five minutes we’re in their face 100 miles an hour and we start on the right foot,” he said.

Wellington are winless after four games and last week blew a 3-0 lead at home against Brisbane Roar, who salvaged a 3-all draw.

“We just need to be aware they have quality all over the park ... they can punish you,” Boogaard said.