ERNIE Merrick reckons “everyone is allowed a bad game” and has backed Steve Ugarkovic to return to form against the Brisbane Roar at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
An out-of-sorts Ugarkovic was “hooked” in the 59th minute of the 3-0 loss to Melbourne City last round.
The 24-year-old has been one of the Jets’ most consistent performers since breaking into the midfield in round eight of the 2016-17 campaign.
Only once since has he played fewer minutes – he was replaced in the 57th minute in a 5-2 loss to Adelaide at Coopers Stadium in round 24 last season – than he did against City.
“Everyone is allowed a bad game,” Merrick said. “Steve Ugarkovic, he just couldn’t keep the ball, he was a bit lost and he was substituted. He has never let us down in the past.
“Sometimes it is not a bad thing to get hooked. You sit there and watch what it is like to be not playing. To be fair to him, I can only make three subs, that is the rule. If I could have made seven, I probably would have.”
Merrick was highly critical of the Jets’ “lack of urgency in defending and an inability to pressurise the opposition” and is expecting a lift in intensity across the board in their return to home.
Attacker Dimi Petratos said it was vital that the Jets moved on from the disappointing performance against City.
“At some stage in the season, games like that happen,” he said. “We can learn from it, take whatever positives there are and work on the things we need to. We can’t dwell on the past. We need to go forward.”
The Jets recorded a clean sweep of wins over the Roar last season. Petratos scored the winner against his former club in Brisbane in round three – the same game Ronny Vargas badly broke his leg.
An early goal by Jason Hoffman was the difference in Newcastle in round 16 and Joey Champness scored the decisive goal at Suncorp Stadium in round 21.
Petratos, who spent three years at the Roar, said he was looking forward to taking on his former teammates.
“We won a championship in my first season in Brisbane and I had a great time there,” he said. “Matt McKay, Jack Hingert, Jamie Young, Henrique, Daniel Bowles … the majority of players are still there. You look forward to every game, but especially against your old team.”
Brisbane will be without a suspended Stefan Mauk, who was given a red card in the fiery 2-1 loss to Adelaide at Coopers Stadium.
French midfielder Eric Bautheac is a definite starter despite limping off with a knee injury.
Former Jets striker Adam Taggart (groin) was also replaced, however he will travel to Newcastle with a final decision to be made on game day.
Taggart has contributed five of the Roars’ seven goals this season and also has a fantastic record at McDonald Jones Stadium, where he spent two seasons.