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Jets primed for A-League top-six challenge

The Newcastle Jets' win over the Western Sydney Wanderers temporarily lifts them to within eight points of the A-League top six.

Jets primed for A-League top-six challenge

The Newcastle Jets' win over the Western Sydney Wanderers temporarily lifts them to within eight points of the A-League top six.

ERNIE MERRICK coach of the Phoenix watches on during the A-League match between the Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle, Australia.
ERNIE MERRICK coach of the Phoenix watches on during the A-League match between the Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle, Australia. Picture:Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images

The finals may be just under three months away, but the next three weeks may prove to be do-or-die for the Newcastle Jets.

After scoring just one goal in their past three matches, last year's grand finalists smashed five past Western Sydney in an A-League demolition on Friday.


It was a ruthless finishing display coach Ernie Merrick saw coming.

"I think we've been threatening to score a number of goals," Merrick said.

"We've been getting into that front third, we've had more opportunities and shots than any other team in the league and today it went well for us.

"We'd done so much work on it.

"It was just a pleasure to see the boys enjoying that front-third work."

But now with their goalscoring frustrations behind them for at least a week, the seventh-placed Jets are now priming themselves for a shot at the top six.

Friday's victory over the Wanderers temporarily lifts them to within eight points of sixth-placed Wellington with 10 games remaining in the season.

Crucially, Newcastle host all three teams directly above them on the ladder - Wellington, Melbourne City, and Adelaide - over the next three weeks.

"Yes, we get that opportunity, there's a few points up for grabs," he said.

"I've never said to them, 'You've got to win every game, or win five in a row'. It's, 'Play good football, get your shots on target'."

Having survived the brutal January schedule, including a stretch of just one home game in their past six, Merrick finally seems to have found a winning formula.

That includes the return to form of star Dimitri Petratos, who scored the opener against the Wanderers and set up another in an eye-catching display.

"Dimi's been under the pump every game we've played," Merrick said.

"There's often two players on him if he holds the ball, so we've worked on releasing the ball very quickly and not holding onto it.

"Because if two are on him, Roy (O'Donovan) must be free.

"And to me, his disposal of the ball was quick and accurate and he was playing the ball in behind. He was unlucky not to score in the first few minutes.

"And then he scored from a similar run, he scored a really good goal, and he was setting the ball up well. He was just outstanding."

AAP


AAP




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