ERNIE Merrick cannot fathom why the A-League draw is not a constant sequence of alternate home-and-away fixtures, but the veteran coach believes the tough stretch the Jets have on the road will improve them mentally and physically for the final third of the campaign.
The Jets’ controversial 2-1 loss to Melbourne City was the first of four out of five games away from home.
Merrick said he could not understand “how we can’t play home and away every week”.
“I say the same thing every year,” he said. “I’ve only been saying it for 11 years though. I guess that’s not very long — play home, play away. End of story.”
Next for the Jets is a blockbuster against champions Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Saturday, then comes a trip down the freeway to meet premiers Sydney FC (January 19).
They return to McDonald Jones Stadium for part two of the derby against the Mariners before back-to-back trips to Perth and Western Sydney.
The Jets are coming off three games in seven days and the next month is likely to shape their play-off hopes. They currently sit in seventh place on 12 points, seven points outside the top six.
“I do feel this phase of four games away from home and one at home will be really good for us,” Merrick said. “Mentally it will toughen us up and improve us physically. We have got a particularly tough draw away from home, but I think that will be good for us leading into the last third of the season.”
Victory were stunned 2-0 by Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Wednesday night and will have three days less to prepare than the Jets.
The Victorians will again be without marquee man Keisuke Honda and defensive pair Georg Niedermeier and Nick Ansell.
“They may be missing a couple of key players but they still have some quality,” Jets captain Nigel Boogaard said. “The depth of their squad is good but we go to Melbourne confident we can come home with some points.”
Victory’s loss to Adelaide ended a streak of six goals in five games for their Swedish international Ola Toivonen.
The former Sunderland striker, who scored for Sweden in a 2-1 loss to Germany at the 2018 World Cup, has proved more than a capable replacement for former golden boot Besart Berisha.
“He is a good player and they have some quality all over the park,” Boogaard said.
“We have mentioned before, if you try and man-mark or highlight one individual in a team, someone else will pop up. There is enough quality now in each team, that if you pay too much attention to one individual, someone else will hurt you.
“It is about understanding their strengths and weaknesses and having a plan to counteract that.
“We go down there with the same confidence that we did against City and feel we can come home with three points.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle-born defender Taylor Regan is reportedly close to finalising a move from Adelaide United to Malaysian club Selangor.
Taylor, who is off contract at the end of the season, has been used sparingly by Adelaide but was strong in their 2-1 win over the Jets earlier this month.
It would be the 30-year-old’s second stint in Malaysia. Regan captained second-division club Negeri Sembilan in 2016.
Selangor, also known as The Red Giants, finished eighth in the Malaysian Super League last season and reached the FA Cup final before losing 2-0 to Pahang.