Preview: Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners

Newcastle impressive performance against Melbourne last round has added extra spice to the ever-tasty treat that is the F3 Derby between the Jets and Central Coast.

Preview: Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners

Date: Friday December 26 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEDT Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Sky Sport 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is 1233 ABC Newcastle and Coast FM (Gosford) 96.3FM. To purchase tickets visit

Head-to-head 16 Hyundai A-League meetings: Newcastle - 6 wins, Central Coast - 4 wins, Draws - 6

Previous meeting Central Coast Mariners 1, Newcastle Jets 0, Bluetongue Stadium, Round 9, October 2008

Past Five Games Newcastle Jets: Round 12: Wellington Phoenix 2, Newcastle Jets 0, Westpac Stadium Round 13: Newcastle Jets 1, Adelaide United 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 14: Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney FC 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 15: Queensland Roar 2, Newcastle Jets 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 16: Newcastle Jets 4, Melbourne Victory 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium

Central Coast Mariners: Round 12: Melbourne 2, Central Coast 1, Telstra Dome Round 13: Perth Glory 2, Central Coast 2, Members Equity Stadium Round 14: Central Coast 1, Queensland Roar 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 15 Central Coast 2, Sydney FC 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 16: Wellington Phoenix 1, Central Coast 0, Westpac Stadium

Analysis Newcastle threw off the shackles after a few disappointing weeks as it buried the Victory 4-2 in the last round, the improved form adding extra spice to the ever-tasty treat that is the F3 Derby between the Jets and Central Coast.

With a large Novocastrian Boxing Day crowd at EnergyAustralia Stadium, this encounter could prove one of the most entertaining clashes this summer as the Jets look to fire once again against the never-say-die Mariners, who could not be counted out even if they slipped 14-0 behind in the 82nd minute!

Despite the Jets being in last place on the table, Newcastle has appeared very solid at times this season. Its counter-attacking game is among the best in the league while its defence has been very solid since conceding nine goals in the first three matches, shipping just 18 goals in the last 13 matches as skipper Jade North and Adam Griffiths continue to impress at the heart of the back four.

With Mark Milligan distributing effectively from the midfield to the pacy pair of Joel Griffiths and Tarek Elrich, the Jets could really expose the Mariners' defence, while Matt Thompson is certain to be brimming with confidence after his hat-trick against Melbourne last week.

Newcastle will be further boosted by the inclusions of James Holland and the lively Jobe Wheelhouse, while Kaz Patafta has been omitted.

Newcastle's defence, though, will have to be at its very best to withstand the Mariners' own three-pronged strike force of Dylan Macallister, Sasho Petrovski and Matt Simon as Mile Jedinak and John Hutchinson threaten from the midfield.

Central Coast will certainly be fired up for this encounter as it looks to celebrate skipper Alex Wilkinson's 100th match in the yellow and navy and Jedinak's 50th appearance for the club.

Mariners defender Dean Heffernan is also improving with each match he plays at senior level and will be desperate to put in a good one, showing he's back to his best after breaking his leg in last year's Christmas classic against Sydney FC.

The Mariners will also be looking to atone for last week's 1-0 loss in Wellington. Central Coast was stunned by an early Shane Smeltz header but went on to dominate much of that encounter without any reward on the scoreboard.

In an incredibly tight race to the finals over the last five rounds, that result has exposed Central Coast to some unwanted pressure from below.

The fourth-placed club is level on 22 points with Wellington, two ahead of Sydney (sixth) and just three points ahead of Perth (seventh). A loss to Newcastle and wins to either the Phoenix or Sky Blues could see it topple from the top four, while even Perth has a chance to enter finals consideration if it beats Adelaide.

If that happens, Perth and Central Coast could be level on points going into their sensational New Year's Eve match.

Lawrie McKinna won't want it to come to this, though, as the Glory came within a whisker of pulling off a big win over the Mariners just three rounds ago, making it imperative for the Gosford club to gain full points from its trip down the F3.

Greg Owens, Paul O'Grady and Andrew Clarke have been included for this match in Lawrie McKinna's squad, which has to be amongst the fittest in the league.

This seems a major reason why Central Coast can never be counted out even when the chips are down.

So even if Newcastle stuns them and goes three goals up, like it did to Melbourne, a major comeback could always be on the cards but if past matches between these two sides this season are anything to go by, there may not be as many fireworks as one would expect from the two local rivals.

In Round 1, they produced a 1-1 draw as all the Hyundai A-League clubs began their campaigns cautiously, while Macallister's goal proved the difference in Round 9.

However, with the Jets aiming to play party pooper and Central Coast desperate for a result, that caution may be thrown to the wind at EnergyAustralia this Friday night as a riveting and possibly finals-defining encounter unfolds.

Newcastle Jets Squad 1. Ante COVIC (gk), 2. Adam GRIFFITHS, 3. Jade NORTH (c), 5. James HOLLAND, 8. Matt THOMPSON, 9. Joel GRIFFITHS, 10. Jin-Hyung SONG, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 13. Adam D-APUZZO, 14. Shaun ONTONG, 16. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 24. Marko JESIC, 26. Mark MILLIGAN, 27. Sean ROONEY, 30. Justin PASFIELD (gk). *one to be omitted.

In. 5. James Holland, 12. Jobe Wheelhouse (returns from suspension). Out. 7. Kaz Patafta Unavailable. 15. Jason Hoffman (knee - season),18. Noel Spencer (ankle - indefinite), 20. Ben Kennedy (ankle - 6 weeks), 19. Jason Naidovski (knee - season).

Central Coast Mariners Squad. 2. Andre GUMPRECHT, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Bradley PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 9. Nik MRDJA, 10. Adrian CACERES, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 12. Greg OWENS, 13. Paul O'GRADY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 17. Matthew OSMAN, 18. Alex WILKINSON, 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 22. Sasho PETROVSKI, 23. Mile JEDINAK, 30. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk). *three to be omitted.

In. 12. Greg OWENS (Promoted), 13. Paul O'GRADY (Promoted), 15. Andrew CLARK (Promoted). Out. Nil. Unavailable. 16. Nigel BOOGAARD (Ankle - Indefinite), 21. Ahmad ELRICH (Knee - Season).