WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert says the Newcastle Jets seem to have switched on the afterburners recently but is confident his team can shoot them down on Saturday.
After a slow start to the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season the Jets have recorded some good results in recent games – notably a 3-1 win against Adelaide United and a 1-1 draw with competition leaders Brisbane Roar on Wednesday.
However, they continue to languish down the table, in ninth position. The Phoenix, meanwhile, sit in seventh spot, three points ahead of the Novacastrians. Both teams will be desperate to take all three points at EnergyAustralia Stadium and stay in touch with the competition frontrunners.
“We-re looking forward to this challenge,” said Herbert. “They-ll be tough and they-re playing well. They-ve probably gone under the radar a little bit so far but things seemed to have turned for them in the last couple of games and they-ll be confident.
“But we-ve got a good squad and we-re confident too. The boys are feeling good and we-re in a good space.”
The Phoenix will be without Tim Brown in Newcastle, the midfielder sitting out the match after collecting his fifth yellow card of the season in last weekend-s loss to the Central Coast Mariners. Nick Ward is likely to come straight into the starting XI in place of Brown.
The Jets also have two players unavailable due to suspension – skipper Ljubo Milicevic and Ruben Zadkovich.
Herbert said both teams would have to adapt to the forced changes in their lineups but did not see that as a major problem.
“At some stage of the season you-re going to have injured players or suspended players, unfortunately. With the depth of our squad that means opportunities for other players, for Wardy it-ll mean dropping back into the midfield and he-ll be licking his lips to perform the best he can.”
Defender Jade North will hook up with the Phoenix in Newcastle but is unlikely to start the game. North arrives back in Australia on Saturday after playing for the Socceroos against Egypt in Cairo earlier in the week.
“It would be questionable that Jade would start,” said Herbert. “But he could well be on the bench because I think we-ll need cover from a defending point of view.”
That means it is likely that Troy Hearfield will slot in at right back alongside skipper Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund – who will play his 50th Hyundai A-League match – and Manny Muscat on the left flank.
Newcastle Jets vs. Wellington Phoenix
Saturday, 20 November 2010
EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle
Local kick-off: 7pm (9pm NZDT)
Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, FS1 HD & Sky Sport 2 (NZ). Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 1233 ABC Newcastle and The Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM.
Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Taylor REGAN, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR STANLEY, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI 7. Kasey WEHRMAN, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 13. Sasho PETROVSKI, 14. Labinot HALITI, 15. Sean ROONEY, 17. Marcello FIORENTINI, 18. Marko JESIC, 19. Ali ABASS, 22.Kaz PATAFTA 24. Francis Jeffers 40. Matthew NASH 9. Zhang SHUO
*one to be omitted*
In: Zhang SHUO (promoted)
Out: Ruben ZADKOVICH (suspension), Ljubo MILICEVIC (suspension)
Unavailable: Neil YOUNG (illness – indefinite), Michael Bridges (Knee – six weeks), Jobe WHEELHOUSE (Hip – indefinite), Brodie MOOY (Shin Splints – indefinite), Jeremy BROCKIE (Broken foot – 6 to 8 weeks)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 4. Nick WARD, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Mirjan PAVLOVIC, 15. Jade NORTH, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 19. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Dylan MACALLISTER, 26. Simon ELLIOTT
*one to be omitted*
In: Mirjan PAVLOVIC (promoted)
Out: Tim BROWN (suspended – 1 week)
Unavailable: Tony LOCHHEAD (groin – 4 weeks), Oscar ROBERT CORNEJO (knee – 4 weeks)
Head-to-Head: All matches (played 10): Newcastle Jets wins 3, Wellington Phoenix wins 6 (1 draw)