Preview: Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners

Clashes between F3 rivals the Jets and Mariners are always tense, hard-fought and physical affairs.

Date: Saturday, October 20, 2012 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle

Head-to-head: Played 26: Wins: Newcastle 8, Central Coast 9, Draws: 9

Previous encounter: Central Coast 1-1 Newcastle, January 14, 2012

Form: Past five matches: Newcastle: LW Central Coast: DW

The Game: While this won't generate the hype and excitement of the other New South Wales derby this weekend, clashes between F3 rivals the Jets and Mariners are always tense, hard-fought and physical affairs.

You only need to look at the head-to-head record between the two clubs (Mariners lead nine wins to eight) to see it's always a tight match no matter what position they are on the ladder.

Both clubs are coming off impressive wins last weekend which means they should be full of confidence. The Jets will be sweating on the fitness of right-back Scott Neville, who failed to finish the win over Sydney FC due to a groin strain. Ruben Zadkovich may get the nod if Neville is unavailable.

Goalkeeper Ben Kennedy is also battling a knee injury with Mark Birighitti pushing to come back into the side after a one-game ban. Marquee man Emile Heskey got off the goal-scoring mark against the Sky Blues and will be keen to do the same in front of the home fans.

Mariners coach Graham Arnold will have midfielder Michael McGlinchey back from international duty in what is likely to be his only change from the side that beat Perth last Sunday. Bernie Ibini or Daniel McBreen may push for a start as the lone striker with youngster Mitchell Duke failing to fire in the first two rounds.

The big issue: Newcastle - Two weeks into the season and it's obvious van Egmond is still trying to figure out what is the best formation for his side.

In the first two games the Jets boss has used both three at the back and four as well as he decides how best to use his three quality centre-backs in Tiago, Josh Mitchell and Dom Ritter.

It is a bonus to have a team that is adaptable to all different formations and scenarios but if the Jets are to become a finals side this season, they will need to find their best system and stick to it so the players can get a bit of continuity to their game.

Central Coast - The Mariners have again shown they possess a defence that will be very hard to crack this season but it's the make-up of the front third that is still a work in progress.

The biggest question mark is over lone striker Duke, who was extremely impressive in the pre-season but has yet to bring that form into the A-League. There is no doubt the youngster has what it takes to score goals at this level, but it is taking time for him to find his feet.

The game breaker: Craig Goodwin - He may only have a handful of A-League games under his belt but Goodwin has already shown in the opening fortnight of the season he is a key ingredient in the Jets' side.

The 20-year-old provides great balance to the Jets attack down the left-hand side and can not only set-up goals but score them as well as evidenced by his cool finish against Sydney last weekend. Goodwin's battle with Mariners right-back Pedj Bojic could go a long way to deciding which side comes out on top.

Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Central Coast The Jets couldn't get the job done in front of their home fans in round one but there's no better way to make it up to them than beating their closest rivals.

And with the side fast learning how to best use marquee man Heskey they are a strong chance of getting it done. The former England international was a constant menace for the Sky Blues defence last weekend but he won't have things so easy against Trent Sainsbury and Patrick Zwaanswijk.

With the sides so evenly matched all over the park, it will probably be in the wide areas where they can get some joy. Mariners fullbacks Bojic and Josh Rose are the best in the league at getting forward and getting crosses in while the Jets have some thrust of their own in Goodwin and Virgili.

Given the way both sides have started the season it's hard to give any of them the edge so there's a good chance they'll cancel each other out and share the points.