IF the Newcastle Jets beat the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday they will lock up a place in the A-League play-offs.
No ifs, buts or maybes. The seven-year finals drought will be over.
Three points will propel the Jets to 41 points and open a 19-point buffer to seventh place with six games (18 points) remaining in the regular season.
The Jets’ last appearance in the post season was in 2010 when they limped into sixth spot. They then beat Gold Coast United 6-5 on penalties before losing the minor semi to Wellington 3-1 in extra time.
Midfielder Steve Ugarkovic said sealing a finals spot would be “great for the fans” after “seven or eight years now without finals football”.
But the 24-year-old talked down its significance to the playing group.
“We don’t want to get into a mindset where we lock in finals football then we go into a phase where we feel we are safe,” he said.
“We want to keep moving forward, playing our game plan and preparing ourselves for what is next. We are just focused on week by week, getting three points, playing our style and preparing ourselves for what is next. We have been doing that and we have to continue to do it. Coming off the draw last week, we want to get three points and try to cement that spot in the top four. That has been our goal from the start. We are working towards that and another three points would be a good step.”
Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the Jets’ lone championship. There are a number of similarities between the 2008 heroes and the current crop’s rise.
Though aware of the club’s history, Ugarkovic said they had not spoken about it .
“Everyone is aware that they did win it that year,” Ugarkovic said. “If you win a championship anywhere in the world it is a massive thing. It is not really on our mind, the 10th anniversary, it happened in the past and we will be doing everything we can to bring the club back up to where it was.”
“Ugarkovic will again be partnered by Wayne Brown at the base of midfield as Ben Kantarovski (hamsting) continues his recovery.
“Wayne and I played together the last time Kanta was out,” Ugarkovic said. “We understand each other and it works well. Anyone who comes into the team understands their role. They have the faith from the coach and the players around them to get the job done.”
Riley McGree will make his starting debut in place of Pato Rodriguez in the only change from the 2-all draw with Western Sydney.
“He is left-footed, he has a good strike, technically he is good and he works hard off the ball,” Ugarkovic said.
Seventh placed Brisbane are coming off a 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory a fortnight ago and have been boosted by the signing of former match-winner Henrique.
“They are a strong side and we respect them,” Ugarkovic said. “We are always wary of what the other teams can do to us but if we stick to our game plan we will get the job done.”