Jets are keeping it clean

FIVE-and-a-half hours and counting. That is how much time has elapsed since the Jets last conceded a goal.

Along the way, they have recorded a scoreless draw with second-placed Adelaide, a 1-0 victory over two-time champions Brisbane Roar and another 0-0 scoreline against leaders Central Coast Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday night.

"If you play the team that is coming first on their home turf and you come away without conceding and you get something out of the game, that is a positive," satisfied Jets coach Gary van Egmond said.

Next is a trip to Wellington on Sunday to take on cellar dwellers Phoenix and a chance at a club-record fourth clean sheet in a row.

The shambolic, almost kamikaze, defending that gave up 28 goals in the opening 14 rounds has been replaced by a more compact, organised defence.

It hasn't simply been a case of van Egmond finding the right back four.

In the past three games, he has called on seven players and three different defensive combinations.

Nor has it been just the back line.

The work done by midfield anchors Ruben Zadkovich and Josh Brillante in screening the back four, winning the ball quickly and blocking the opposition's passing lanes has been central to the new-found resilience.

The Jets last conceded a goal, a Josip Tadic penalty, in the 25th minute of a 2-1 away loss to Melbourne Heart on New Year's Day, which amounts to 335 minutes of playing time.

"We like to play a game where we press further up the pitch, but that is not something we can do all the time at this stage," van Egmond said.

"We put some structures in place of which the players are following to a T.

"Even when we have different personnel, it is great to see that those players can come in and carry it out."

Josh Mitchell and Scott Neville, who were out of form earlier in the season, were recalled on Saturday and performed superbly.

"We have a lot of boys putting their hands up to play," van Egmond said.

"It gives you better depth and better understanding from all the players when they get their opportunity to play."

On the occasions the Jets have been opened up or strung out, Mark Birighitti has proved unbeatable in goal.

He pulled off a spectacular acrobatic effort to deny Mariners midfielder Michael McGlinchey just before half-time on Saturday.

"It was a real good reaction save," van Egmond said.

"We could talk about how McGlinchey got the opportunity, but it was a very good save."

At the other end, the Jets had enough chances to secure all three points.

Brillante had a long-range effort tipped over the bar by Mat Ryan, Craig Goodwin hit the side netting from close range and James Brown lifted a shot over the bar when he had Ryan Griffiths and Emile Heskey unmarked in the six-yard box.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game," van Egmond said.

"It's a derby, and they are always a team who prides itself on working hard and are very thrifty with regards to what they give away.

"With a little bit of luck I thought we could have scored a couple of goals early in the second half.

"We will take a point. We are buoyed not only by that but by the confidence of the performance as well."

While the Jets are on the up, it has been the opposite for the Phoenix. They face a week of soul-searching after being thumped 7-1 by Sydney FC on Saturday. It was their fourth straight loss.

But van Egmond insisted the Jets' horror record in Wellington - they have recorded one win and eight losses in nine trips across the Tasman - would ensure his side took nothing for granted.

"We go over there in the knowledge that we have not had a result over there in I don't know how long, and it is not going to be an easy game," he said.

"We respect Wellington and how difficult a game it will be.

"They obviously had a tough day at the office [against Sydney].

"If anyone does feel overconfident, I will just show them the statistics and it will bring them back to ground."

Ryan Griffiths controls the ball during the game. Picture: Tony Feder/Getty Images

Ryan Griffiths controls the ball during the game. Picture: Tony Feder/Getty Images


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