FFA Cup: Merrick says benefits of Spain camp out-weigh travel as Jets face Gold Coast Knights

DYNAMIC DUO: Dimi Petratos and Joey Champness are likely to lead the Jets attack in the FFA Cup round of 32 clash against Gold Coast Knights on Tuesday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
DYNAMIC DUO: Dimi Petratos and Joey Champness are likely to lead the Jets attack in the FFA Cup round of 32 clash against Gold Coast Knights on Tuesday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

COACH Ernie Merrick insists that the benefits the Jets gained from a training camp in Spain far outweighed the impact of long-haul travel as they aim to break the club’s FFA Cup duck against minnows Gold Coast Knights at Cbus Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Jets arrived back from Spain, where they spent 10 days at the Pinatar Arena Football Centre and played friendlies against Shabab Al-Ahli (UAE), Saudi club Al-Fayha and Segunda B outfit Cartagena, on Monday  and flew straight to the Gold Coast.

“To come off three games in China and then three games in Spain, I think it is the perfect preparation,” Merrick said. “The flight home was good. Most of the boys slept. If they are a little tired, that is fine. The benefits far outweighed anything else. The training facility was first class and we had three good games. The boys learned a lot from the tour. They have had three days to recover from the last game and I think they will be fine.”

The clash against the third tier Knights, is the first time in four years that the Jets have not drawn an A-League club in the FFA Cup round of 32.

“Any team I have ever coached, I have enjoyed it when the opposition have us lightly,” Merrick said. “I learnt my lesson early, 20-odd years ago, to never take anything for granted. Anyone can get up on any given day. We have done a little bit of homework on them. They are undefeated in the league, don’t concede many goals and have several former Brisbane Roar youth team players. We are going to play our style of football, but we are not going to taking anything for granted.”

The Jets will be without Roy O’Donovan (suspension), captain Nigel Boogaard (head knock) and Ronny Vargas (rested). Noah James will be the back-up keeper after Jack Duncan’s exit.

“The two things we have worked hard on are the speed in which we can close teams down and pressurise them,” Merrick said. “The second thing is once we get the ball, holding onto it. Not playing the first pass available, picking the right pass so we keep possession. With three games in China and three games in Spain, our inter passing has really improved.”

Jets (likely): Glen Moss, Johnny Koutroumbis, Lachlan Jackson, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Daniel Georgievski; Ben Kantarovski, Steve Ugarkovic; Dimi Petratos; Jason Hoffman, Kosta Petratos, Joe Champness.