Rhali Dobson is expecting a hostile reception in Newcastle when Melbourne City battle the Jets in a crucial clash for both teams on Sunday.
Dobson’s City are the three-time defending W-League champions but have made a slow start to this season and sit seventh on the competition standings with just four points from five outings.
Newcastle are sixth with six points ahead of the McDonald Jones Stadium showdown. The Jets are coming off a forgettable 1-0 loss to Brisbane Roar and have never beaten the league’s heavyweights in five previous encounters over the past three seasons.
But East Maitland’s Dobson, who was a long-serving Jet before joining City last season and plays for back-to-back Herald Women’s Premier League champions Merewether in winter, was not reading much into statistics.
“I expect them to put up a fight; Newcastle’s always been like that,” Dobson said.
“They play a good style at the moment and have a couple of players standing out like Clare Wheeler, who has been phenomenal this season. For us it’s knowing they attack hard and they like the counter, and they like to press the defenders.”
The match comes before a no-points bye for City.
“It is a very important game,” Dobson said. “In any competition you don’t want to drop points in the game either side of the bye, so for us there is a lot of focus and a lot of expectation by ourselves on our game.
“The good thing about playing at McDonald Jones is it’s very similar to AAMI Park in size. For us, that’s always a great thing. It also helps I’ve played on it for many years, so I know what it’s like.”
City have lost to Canberra United (2-0), Melbourne Victory (2-0) and Perth (5-2). They beat Sydney 3-1 in round two and looked to have sewn up another win on Saturday before conceding a 97th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Adelaide.
“It’s a cruel sport and we have to deal with the fact that that’s what it was and we didn’t shut things down well enough,” Dobson said.
“In the dying stages everybody needs to put their bodies on the line, so it’s another hard lesson learned for the team.”
Dobson has started every game this season and Newcastle’s Adriana Jones, daughter of former A-League Jets coach Mark Jones, is also playing with City.
Injuries and overseas commitments have meant they did not have their full complement at the start of the season but are now getting close to full strength.
“We’ve had a different line-up each week, so that’s always going to impact on a squad,” Dobson said.
“But with everyone coming back in this week, that’s really positive for our season.”
The match is the first of a Jets double-header at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday. It kicks off at 2.30pm with the A-League clash between Newcastle and Brisbane to follow.