CAPTAIN Nigel Boogaard concedes that the Newcastle Jets no longer have the luxury of “flying under the radar” and believes they need to play smarter.
The Jets, in seventh place with one win, have been unable to reproduce the free-flowing football in the opening six weeks that was key to the club’s rise last season.
A 10-game suspension to Roy O’Donovan, a change in personnel and injuries have contributed to the stalled start.
Next for the Jets is an equally-desperate Brisbane Roar at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
“We are keeping possession well in good areas of the park, but we are lacking that final punch and little bit of creativity to unlock teams,” Boogaard said. “Rival teams have realised if they sit back and nullify our counter attack, they make it hard for us. We just have to be smarter in key areas of the park and make sure we understand how to break teams down.”
The Jets are yet to replace the athleticism and energy caused by the departure of Andrew Nabbout and Riley McGree and an injury late in the pre-season to Joey Champness.
But Boogaard is adamant they have the quality to again be a championship force.
“I don’t know whether we have to reinvent ourselves, just do things better,” Boogaard said.
“We were a little more free-flowing last season. That is probably due to the individuals in the team as well.
“There are new combinations and we are not flying under the radar as we did last year. We have to be smarter in how we approach that.”
Brazilian Jair (hip flexor) and rookie striker Kaine Sheppard (foot) trained with the main group on Wednesday, but Ronny Vargas (groin) was again on light duties.
“Today was quite sharp and hopefully we can go into the game with the form we are showing at training,” Boogaard said.
Jets coach Ernie Merrick was scathing in his assessment of the 3-0 loss to Melbourne City. Boogaard said the criticism was warranted and “probably the kick up the butt we needed”.
“It’s good to hear a coach come out and say that,” he said. “If he didn’t, maybe some of the younger boys might think it wasn’t as bad.
“You know within yourself as a professional footballer, especially the senior players, that that performance was not good enough. You don’t turn into bad footballers or a bad team overnight. You look at the game, analyse it and learn from it.”
The Roar went down to Adelaide 2-1 in a fiery contest last round. They will be without the suspended Stefan Mauk but hope to have key men Adam Taggart (groin) and Eric Bautheac (knee) on deck, despite both having to be replaced in the loss.
Taggart, who joined the Roar from Perth this season, has scored four goals in his past three games against the Jets.
“Taggart is a quality player,” Boogaard said. “Every team you come up against has a few key individuals who can pop up and hurt you. If you focus too much on them, someone else will pop up and score. Each individual has their strengths. Some boys are good in the air and always want crosses. He might look to get in behind. We will analyse his game and come up with a plan to stop him.
“Ultimately, if we can get back to that form we have been speaking about, and showed last year, and we have shown in small patches this year, then we are confident we will be able to get results.
“If we win on the weekend we can go into the top six. You go on a run of three or four games with results and, all of a sudden, you are sitting second or third and your form from a month prior is irrelevant.”