Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets

The Mariners had enjoyed the better of the recent meetings between the two F3 rivals until Newcastle came away with a 1-0 win in Round 3 of this season.

Date: Saturday, December 10 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT, 5.30pm Local Venue: Bluetongue Stadium

Head-to-head Played 24: Wins: Central Coast 8, Newcastle 8, Draws: 8

Previous encounter Newcastle Jets 1, Central Coast 0, October 23, 2011

History: The Mariners had enjoyed the better of the recent meetings between the two F3 rivals until Newcastle came away with a 1-0 win in Round 3 of this season. Before that the boys from the Central Coast hadn't tasted defeat against the Jets since October 2009.

As the head-to-head record shows there is never much between the two with both enjoying eight wins apiece (with eight draws), from their 24 previous encounters. The Jets of course won the biggest ever clash between the two clubs in the 2008 Grand Final.

Form: Past five matches: Central Coast: WDWWW Newcastle: WLLDW

When the Central Coast were spluttering their way through the early rounds of the season, coach Graham Arnold said it would take a few weeks for his side to find their mojo.

How right he was with the Mariners the form side of the competition with five wins in their last six matches. The 4-0 demolition of Adelaide last weekend showed last season's beaten grand finalists are fast closing the gap on record-breaking Brisbane.

The Jets have had a rollercoaster start to the season with impressive victories often followed by disappointing defeats. They had one of their better days last weekend in coming from a goal down to beat Melbourne Victory 3-1.

That match was played on their home turf which has become a bit of a fortress for Gary van Egmond's side this campaign. Unfortunately this game is on the road where the Jets yet to win a game this season.

Match Committee: No major injury concerns for the Mariners and there is unlikely to be any changes to the side that were so impressive in dismantling the Reds last weekend.

Oliver Bozanic, who came off the bench last week after his exertions with the Olyroos, could maybe force his way back into the squad, with John Hutchinson the most likely to drop out if that was the case. Newcastle also have a squad without any major absences with goalkeeper Ben Kennedy available again after missing the last couple of weeks due to concussion.

But, Matt Nash has done a good job in deputising for the No.1 and could keep his spot in the starting XI.

Danger men: Bernie Ibini - In a side that has experienced stars like Alex Wilkinson, Patrick Zwaanswijk, John Hutchinson and Rostyn Griffiths at their disposal, it's good to see some of the club's young stars continue to shine. One of those is Ibini, who has developed into a real weapon for the Mariners. The youngster scored a goal and won a penalty in the game against Adelaide and his partnership with Matt Simon is improving every week.

Ryan Griffiths - Griffiths continues to be a real trump card for the Jets, in a side that hasn't found goals easy to come by so far this season. The double he scored in the win over Melbourne last week took his tally to the season to five, almost half of the total goals (11) the Jets have managed in their opening nine games of the campaign.

At the end of the day… This has all the makings to be an absolute cracker. Not only is it a local derby but both sides have nearly full squads to choose from and come into the match in pretty hot form.

The big question will be how the Newcastle defence will handle the attacking threat of Ibini, Simon, Mustafa Amini and to a lesser extent Michael McGlinchey.

While the Jets have been reasonably resolute so far this season, the Mariners have been scoring for fun lately with 10 goals in their last three matches. The pace and power of Simon and Ibini will ensure Jets defenders Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Tiago Calvano will have an uncomfortable 90 minutes.

Newcastle will rely heavily on Griffiths to make something happen up front and could get some joy from the pacy overlaps down the right from fullback Tarek Elrich. His battle with Joshua Rose is one of many fascinating battles that could go a long way to determining which team comes out on top. B

ut the Jets' away form is a real concern and for that reason - coupled with the Mariners' impressive run - should see Graham Arnold's side pick up another three points and keep the heat on league leaders Brisbane.


Central Coast Mariners Squad: 1. Mathew Ryan (Gk), 2. Daniel McBreen, 3. Joshua Rose, 4. Pedj Bojic, 6. Patrick Zwaanswijk, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Rostyn Griffiths, 9. Bernie Ibini, 11. Oliver Bozanic, 12. Troy Hearfield, 14. Michael McGlinchey, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon, 20. Justin Pasfield (Gk), 22. Mustafa Amini

In: Nil Out: Nil Unavailable: Nil

Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ben Kennedy (gk), 2. Taylor Regan, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Tiago Calvano, 6. Ben Kantarovski, 7. Kasey Wehrman, 8. Jeremy Brockie, 9. Michael Bridges 10. Ruben Zadkovich, 11. Tarek Elrich, 12. Jobe Wheelhouse (c), 13. Sung-Hwan Byun, 14. Labinot Haliti, 19. Matthew Nash 22. Ali Abbas, 23. Ryan Griffiths, 24. Francis Jeffers, 25. Jacob Pepper *three to be omitted* In: 1. Ben Kennedy (gk), 17.James Virgili, 2. Taylor Regan, 24. Francis Jeffers Out: 30. Jack Duncan Unavailable: Nil