NIGEL Boogaard insists the Newcastle Jets are playing a style of football to be a force in the A-League play-offs but the skipper knows they need to starting picking up points.
The Jets sit in seventh place and have collected a solitary point from the past three games, despite being on the front foot and controlling large periods in each contest.
They conceded a last-minute goal to go down 2-1 to Adelaide after creating twice as many chances, did likewise for a share of the points against Brisbane Roar in a 2-all draw, before playing with 10 men for 65 minutes and pushing Melbourne City to the limit in a 2-1 defeat away from home.
Next are champions Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Saturday night. Another loss and last season’s grand finalists could be as many as 10 points outside the top six approaching the mid-point of the season.
“There is a lot of football to be played,” Boogaard said. “It has not gotten to the point of no return yet, but we have to be conscious that we have to start picking up points, and doing whatever we need to achieve that.
“It is still amazing in this comp that you can finish below halfway on the table and still sneak into the finals series. I have been around long enough to know that you can go on a winning streak of three or four games and all of a sudden you go from last to somewhere in the top four.”
The Jets recorded seven wins and three draws in the second half of last season to finish second on 50 points.
Significantly, they scored a club-record 57 goals in their climb up the ladder.
They haven’t struggled to create goal-scoring opportunities this campaign. Their 206 shots on goal is the most in the league. But they also boast the worst conversion rate at about nine per cent.
The Jets strike rate has improved since the return from suspension by Roy O’Donovan, who has netted three goals in four games.
“It’s pleasing that we are getting those goal-scoring chances. We need to be a bit more clinical and take them when they arise,” Boogaard said. “It alleviates a lot of pressure off the team defensively and changes the dynamic of the game if you score first.
“I feel like the last two games we have done that, we have started on the right foot, but for whatever reason, the outcome hasn’t come. When everything clicks we will put a fair few past the opposition.
“This week we are back in Melbourne and have another opportunity to play one of the bigger teams and put ourselves to the test.”
The Jets have formed a fierce rivalry with the Victory since Ernie Merrick, the Melbourne club’s foundation coach, arrived in Newcastle at the start of last season.
Victory have won the past two encounters, most notably last season’s grand final in which Melbourne’s decisive goal came from an offside play which was let go after the VAR malfunctioned.
Boogaard said past results were history and now “irrelevant”.
“If you go out and try to right the wrongs of something that has happened in the past, it can be a dangerous mindset,” he said. “For me it is not about that. It is about us improving on our performances. We took a lot out of last week, knowing that going down to 10 men we still created a lot of chances. We have that quality and ability in our squad. We just have to make sure we execute for 90 minutes.”
The Jets will be without Ronny Vargas for the trip south after the midfielder was controversially sent off in the defeat to City.
“Ronny is obviously a big plus for us,” Boogaard said. “Last campaign, we went the majority of the season without him. The boys are thankful when he is on the park, but there is some quality to step in when he is not. We are still confident that if we stick to the game plan, we will be able to go to Melbourne and get something out of it.”
The send off was among a host of debatable decisions.
“It was a frustrating night but there were a lot of positives to take away from the game,” Boogaard said.
“Before going to 10 men, I thought we were quite dominant. The decision is the decision and we had to move on from that. The spirit and the character the boys showed to go out in the second half and really create the majority of the good chances, although not getting anything out of the game, was pleasing. We know that we can go down there against some of the bigger teams, and even with 10 men, push them all the way.”