THE pressure on the Newcastle Jets has intensified after they dropped to seven points behind the A-League’s top six teams.
Adelaide’s upset 2-0 win against Melbourne Victory on Wednesday night left the Jets marooned in seventh position, two wins and a draw adrift of their nearest rivals in the race for the finals.
With 15 games remaining, Newcastle are on 12 points, conceding further ground to sixth-placed Wellington and Adelaide (both on 19 points) after results this week.
The Jets head to AAMI Park on Saturday for a grand final re-match with Melbourne Victory that is shaping as a crucial juncture in their season.
Should Newcastle lose again, and Wellington, Adelaide and Melbourne City beat Central Coast, Sydney and Brisbane respectively, Newcastle would be left trailing the top six by 10 points and needing a minor miracle.
Jets coach Ernie Merrick and skipper Nigel Boogaard are both remaining positive, insisting the season has not yet reached its halfway point.
Merrick said Newcastle’s tough schedule in January would pay dividends at the business end of the proceedings because “mentally it will toughen us up and improve us physically”.
Boogaard said there have been plenty of examples of teams who “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”.
But the odds are already starting to stack up against the Jets, who have drifted to $17 on TAB’s championship market, and to $2.10 to make the final six.
If they are to turn the corner on Saturday, last season’s runners-up will have to overcome not only the absence of suspended marquee man Ronny Vargas, but also their recent record at AAMI Park.
Newcastle have not won at the venue since October, 2015. Their past eight visits to Melbourne have produced six losses and two draws, and they have scored only six goals in the process.