Hyundai A-League preview: Jets v Phoenix
The in-form Jets should expect a rejuvenated Wellington who head to the Hunter boosted by the signing of a goal-scoring legend this week. There’s a precious three points to fight for on Boxing Day.
These two face-off for the second time in seven weeks but the pre-match mood has changed substantially since that 2-0 win for Phoenix at the Cake Tin.
The Jets are a much tougher proposition right now, buoyed by back-to-back wins for the first time this Hyundai A-League 2016/17 Season.
Mark Jones’ side has jumped to fifth spot and are dreaming of a first Finals Series appearance since the 2009/10 Season. And they will view this is a crucial three points.
There’s been a lot to like about Newcastle’s football over the last few weeks. They are creating plenty of chances and with the return of some experience at the back, have a steelier look about them.
But there’s a bit of optimism brewing at the ‘Nix as well.
Interim bosses Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham have yet to taste defeat in two matches at the helm, including last weekend’s spirited 2-2 draw with the Wanderers.
They have got themselves just two points outside the top six, with a game in hand.
After the Jets Nix take on Adelaide and Perth over the Summer of Football, and with both fixtures they’ll fancy their chances of picking up maximum points.
With prolific Hyundai A-League scorer Shane Smeltz signing for the rest of the season, could the Nix continue their charge?
ROUTE TO GOAL
Newcastle (with 13 goals from 11 games) have the worst scoring record of any side currently in the top six. But the signs over the last fortnight have been encouraging.
Jones has used youngsters Andrew Nabbout, Devante Clut and Andrew Hoole in a pacy, mobile front three, with Wayne Brown offering good support in behind.
With Morten Nordstrand - who scored the winner last weekend - in reserve and Aleksandr Kokko still to return from injury, the Jets attack certainly has potential.
But they’ll have to discover a ruthless streak to keep this run going.
They have squandered a host of chances in their wins over the last two weeks, meaning they only won by the solitary goal rather than doing it more comfortably.
Phoenix will again look to Fijian star Roy Krishna to ignite their attack.
Krishna has scored seven goals in his last seven games and bagged a brace in the 2-0 win over the Jets last month.
And with Smeltz now in the squad, they have a predatory striker who will thrive on the service from the likes of Finkler, Barbarouses and Bonevacia.
While the veteran striker won’t be involved until the New Year, he’ll add plenty of punch to Phoenix’s attack when available.
WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Andrew Nabbout. The young winger is in career-best form, winning four man-of-the-match awards in just eight appearances this season. If the Jets are to make it three in a row, Nabbout’s pace, power and attacking drive will be crucial.