Jets target rebound out west

GUTTED: Jets' Craig Goodwin ponders defeat  as Mariners players celebrate their win on Saturday night. Picture by   MAX MASON-HUBERS
GUTTED: Jets' Craig Goodwin ponders defeat as Mariners players celebrate their win on Saturday night. Picture by MAX MASON-HUBERS

COACH Gary van Egmond admits the Jets' confidence had taken a battering but insists they will take a positive approach to Perth - a place where they have not won since the inaugural year of the A-League.

The Jets were shut out 2-0 by a clinical Central Coast Mariners at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.

Former Novocastrian Daniel McBreen again provided the heroics for the league leaders, scoring a second-half brace to take his season tally to nine - two clear of his nearest rival, Jeremy Brockie.

It was the second straight defeat for the Jets, after a 1-0 loss to the Roar on the road.

They drop to fifth place on 13 points but have recorded only one win - a 2-1 triumph over Western Sydney - from the past six outings.

"Right at this moment the confidence is down, but there are some positives from the game as well," van Egmond said. "We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off. We welcome back some troops for the trip to Perth. The last game against Perth was positive as well.

"You have to make sure you stick together, that is the most important part. If you start to fracture, again confidence is something which is naturally down, but you have to still look to the positives."

Saturday night was the sixth time in 10 games the Jets have conceded two or more goals. The defending was poor for both of McBreen's goals.

No one picked up the veteran when he made a run to the near post before hitting a sweet half-volley past Matt Nash, and there was no pressure on Josh Rose, who provided the cross on the left.

McBreen was again inexplicably left unmarked from a corner for his second and had all the time in the world to direct a header low and to the right of Nash.

The attack too, it seems, has dried up. Craig Goodwin was dangerous in the first half down the left, but for all his pace and ability to go past players he was unable to produce the killer final ball.

Mariners defender Trent Sainsbury, who was outstanding, made a couple of crucial interceptions but overall keeper Justin Passfield was rarely tested.

"It seemed to me prior to them scoring we still had a little bit of fear of playing," van Egmond said.

"Once they scored, we had players looking to open up. That is what we want them to do from the beginning of the game. We have instructed that and really encouraged that but it is easier said than done.

"There were some good passages of play and we got ourselves into good positions, but the final pass, the final delivery, was not what we wanted.

"There were a number of times where a cross from a wide area went out or went too far or got cut out by the first defender. They are the differences between scoring goals and not."

Van Egmond also paid credit to the Mariners who have lost once this season - 2-1 to the Jets in round three - and now won three straight.

"Even though we beat them in the first round, I felt they were the best team we played," he said. "When the game was in the balance, the Mariners were the team who controlled it more."

Mariners coach Graham Arnold was appreciative of van Egmond's praise.

"Our confidence is high, we are healthy, we are fit, we are a happy group," he said.

"I know other teams have injuries but we prepare for that. We have competition for places, which breeds a healthy culture.

"Whether we are the benchmark of the league, it is nice for Dutchy [van Egmond] to say that. Our goal was to make the top six and be consistent."

The Jets welcome back suspended duo Ryan Griffiths and Josh Mitchell back from suspension for the trip west.

Goals and wins have also dried up for last season's A-League runners-up, but coach Ian Ferguson believes his players will respond well to the pressure.

The Glory started the season strongly, with three wins in their first five games.

But their five matches since have yielded just two points and two goals, with their most recent result a 1-0 loss to Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

Sudanese-born refugee Golgol Mebrahtu came off the bench to deliver an 89th-minute winner for the Heart in his first appearance for the club after 26 goal-less matches with Gold Coast.

Ferguson said that while previous performances during Perth's winless streak had been better than results indicated, the loss to the Heart had few redeeming features.

"We probably got what we deserved," he said. "We never played at all well, as well as I'd expect us to play."

Most galling was that Perth had earmarked the clash as a chance to jump-start their stalling season, given the Heart were missing key players and entered the round second from the bottom.

But Ferguson backed his side to claw their way out of the slump.

"Of course we're confident we can," he said. "We've got good players to come back in - Michael Thwaite and Scott Jamieson [from Socceroos duty] and Liam Miller [from injury]. We're pretty confident we can get it back on track again." - with AAP


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