Jets break the shackles to rediscover their goal-scoring mojo

Heading into Friday night’s clash against the Western Sydney Wanderers, there was a peculiar stat that haunted Newcastle Jets’ finals hopes.

While Ernie Merrick’s side had fired off the most shots at goal in the first 16 rounds (271), they were the competition’s lowest scorers, with only 15 for the campaign.

Their conversion rate was at a miserly 8%.

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But in a timely boost to their hopes of making a late surge for the top six, everything clicked for the Hunter club as they walloped a poor Wanderers side 5-1 at ANZ Stadium.

The Jets had 10 shots on target for the match – their most in almost 12 months – from 19 attempts, for a vastly improved conversion rate of more than 25%.

“It was a day where things came together for us,” Merrick told Fox Sports after the match.

“We’ve been working a lot on finishing and I had a feeling we were going to score a few of goals against some team and unfortunately for the Wanderers it was them.”

The Jets’ struggles in front of goal are a far cry from last season, where their 57 goals for the campaign was second only to Premiers Sydney FC (64).

While there hasn’t been a dramatic change to their approach in 2018/19, Jason Hoffman believes a concerted plan to fix their defensive structure helped get rewards at the other end.

“We’ve spoken about it all year that we need to be a little bit more clinical and stop making excuses,” Hoffman told Fox Sports.

“We worked hard this week to make sure we went back to a good defensive structure and from there that’s where we can hurt teams.

“You saw that in the first half, we were set up really well and then we broke quite quickly where we try to expose them at the back and it seemed to work.

“Last year we scored a lot of goals from getting balls in early and it worked [tonight].

“We need to be more clinical in the front third and a lot of that falls on the front three and I thought the lot of us worked quite well tonight and we can improve on it hopefully.”

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And if the Jets can improve in this area, it spells trouble for their opponents in the final third of the campaign.

Victory over the Wanderers has closed the gap to eight points to Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United (who are both still to play this weekend) in the top six.