THE Newcastle Jets’ defence has been challenged to “start showing some leadership” and the whole squad told to prove this week that they want a spot for the W-League semi-final against Sydney.
The Jets return to the finals on Saturday afternoon at Leichhardt Oval (4.45pm) for the first time since 2009, after finishing third.
They defeated second-place Sydney 2-0 at home and drew 2-all away during the regular season but go into the play-offs off a 3-0 loss to Melbourne City.
Jets coach Craig Deans was disappointed with the defensive lapses, especially at set-pieces, against City, who scored twice with headers.
“In the first half we didn’t do ourselves justice,” Deans said on Sunday.
“We conceded goals from set pieces, which is poor. It wasn’t that we got broken down or opened up and they were good footballing goals. They were set pieces and a scrappy ball bouncing in the box, so from our point of view, that’s not good enough.
“I expect 19 players to turn up to training this week and show me that they want to be the people to represent the club in our first finals game in nine years.”
Deans said both sides had match-winners in the front third and he believed the game would be “a case of which defence can do the better job”.
Newcastle finished the regular season with the equal best attack of 26 goals but the worst defence of 21 conceded among the finalists.
Hannah Brewer, Cassidy Davis, Gema Simon and Sophie Nenadovic played at the back against City. Nikola Orgill, who missed the past two games with illness, and the towering Natasha Prior are other options in defence for Deans. He said Prior ruled herself out of the City game on Friday because of a foot injury and would have to prove at training that she deserved her place back.
“We’ve got a young back four, not inexperienced, but a young defence still learning the game,” he said.
“We’ll work this week to make sure we give them all the information they need to be ready for it, but you’re talking about trying to stop Caitlin Foord and Lisa De Vanna, who are starting players in the Matildas, so I think our players have to take the challenge.
“If you want to be what you want to be in the sport, you want to play against the best and show you’re good enough against the best, so for Cass and Hannah, and hopefully Gema gets through the week, they’ve got to start showing some leadership and that they are good enough to deal with Lisa, Caitlin and whoever else Sydney throw at them.
“Chloe [Logarzo] is another one and scored a goal on Sunday. There’s danger everywhere from Sydney so we need to be at our best.”
He said Newcastle had to learn from their errors at the back against City.
“It shows if we’re not switched on and following the tactical instructions of the game, we’re going to get punished,” he said. “It's good in a way that we had that. If we had had scraped through with a point or got a win, we might have gone into the finals with a little bit of a false sense of security.”
“It was good for us to have a look at where we’re at and realise we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
“If we play our best, we get results like the Canberra game and we beat Brisbane 3-0 away, we beat Sydney at home and drew away.
“It’s good. It’s two games, and if we’re good enough, we can win it.”