Roy O’Donovan has scored the second-most goals ever across the first five rounds of an A-League season, was just named PFA player of the month and has an enviable record against Adelaide.
The Jets striker is flying, but the former Mariner believes he and unbeaten Newcastle will have their feet firmly on the ground against Adelaide on Saturday at Coopers Stadium.
O’Donovan has seven goals in five games to lead the A-League scoring from Sydney’s Bobô and Wanderers’ Oriol Riera on four. The start is second to only Shane Smeltz’s 2009-10 Gold Coast record of eight goals in the opening five rounds.
If he can continue the form, O’Donovan could join Joel Griffiths (2007-08) and Adam Taggart (2013-14) as A-League Golden Boot winners at Newcastle, and surpass their totals. Griffiths and Taggart finished their award-winning seasons with 12 and 16 goals respectively.
O’Donovan was named Professional Footballers Australia’s player of the month for October on Friday but the Irishman was not looking ahead at more potential plaudits.
“For me, football is not about individual awards,” O’Donovan said.
“It’s a team game and if the team does well, I do well. We just each all have our own individual job, we’re all cogs that all fit.
“So far, so good, but to be honest with you, long-term goals like that, they don’t come into play until probably at the finals.”
O’Donovan scored twice in the third-placed Jets’ 3-0 domination of Wellington last week and, if history is any guide, the 32-year-old will likely add to his tally against sixth-placed Adelaide, who are on five points, six behind Newcastle.
O’Donovan scored four times, including the 2015-16 A-League goal of the year, in four games against Adelaide while at the Mariners.
“I don’t think that means much,” he said of his success against the Reds.
“I think scoring against any team means the same thing, but it’s one of those quirks where I seem to have a decent record against them.
“But I like playing at that stadium. It’s a proper football stadium and they’ve got a very loud crowd, close to the pitch. They make it difficult to play there but that’s what you want, a proper challenge, and they are a decent team as well.”
The Jets, who are expected to field an unchanged side, have easily the best attacking record in the league, with 13 goals scored, but they lost 1-0 to Adelaide in their round of 32 FFA Cup clash this season.
Newcastle play heavyweights Sydney away, Victory at home and Melbourne City away after the Adelaide trip but O’Donovan was not looking past the Reds.
“They all pose us very difficult challenges but, for me, Adelaide is the very difficult one because they’ve been probably the most effective team since they’ve had the new manager come in this year,” he said.
“They are in the FFA Cup final and they got a solid start to the league, obviously with the away win against Brisbane a standout so far.
“It will be difficult. Obviously they beat us in the FFA Cup. It will be a tough game for us.”
O’Donovan profited from Newcastle’s high-pressing strategy in defence against Wellington but he expected Adelaide to match the Jets’ intensity.
“We’re a very fit team and I think that showed last week, but there will be a different test against Adelaide because I think they are a very fit team as well,” O’Donovan said.
“We played against them in the FFA Cup and I’ve watched them a few times this year and the last 20 minutes of games they are very strong.
“Again, I think it’s another real test for us tomorrow, but everything right now is positive. But we need to not get carried away with ourselves and make sure we do the business tomorrow.”
O’Donovan believed the best form of defence was attack for Newcastle on the road after their impressive display up front against Phoenix at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“We’ve worked a lot on that from pre-season,” he said of their attacking flow.
“Obviously these things take time to click and that’s to do with players, the manager’s style of play and just getting to know each other really.
“But it’s starting to get better. I thought the week before against Wanderers in the second half it was also really good, so we’re heading in the right direction.
“You’re looking at us, hopefully coming towards Christmas, that we’ll be a team that’s really peaking.”
“We’re in a good spot right now but we need to keep focused and take every game with it’s own challenges and merits.”