Preview: Newcastle Jets v Gold Coast United

The overall head-to-head record between Newcastle and Gold Coast was tipped in United's favour last time they met.

Date: Wednesday 4 January, 2012 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT, 5.30pm local Venue: Ausgrid Stadium

Head-to-head Played 8: Wins: Newcastle 3, Gold Coast 4, Draws: 1

Previous encounter Gold Coast 3, Newcastle 1, 30 October 2011

History: The overall head-to-head record between Newcastle and Gold Coast was tipped in United's favour last time they met.

Back in October last year, they turned over the Jets in a deserving 3-1 victory. It was their first win of the season but the margin could have been far greater were it not for some near-magnetic woodwork, with Maceo Rigters unfortunate to have scored just the one goal.

This time, though, it's Newcastle who are the hosts - and Gold Coast have never taken a single point away from Ausgrid Stadium after three previous attempts.

Form: Past five matches: Newcastle: WLLLD Gold Coast: LDWWD

Summary of form: It's not good, for the Jets. In their last outing they managed to snap their three-game losing streak, but only with an unconvincing draw against an out-of-sorts Perth. Despite the Glory being reduced to 10 men for the majority of the match, Newcastle were held to an eventful but dour 1-1 draw on their own home turf.

That leaves them in eighth place - one point from the bottom, but also just one point from a top six spot.

On the other hand Gold Coast are in a purple patch. Undefeated in four games, they held top-of-the-table Central Coast to a gritty scoreless draw away at Bluetongue Stadium on the weekend, which is no mean feat, but the statistic that shows just how well United are going is that they've not conceded a single goal in the last 360 minutes of football. That's no accident - Miron Bleiberg's current set-up is working wonders for his men, at the very least defensively.

Match Committee: Newcastle's Francis Jeffers, who scored the equalizer in their 1-1 draw with Perth Glory, will miss Wednesday's match after spraining his ankle - but apart from that, there's not too many selection issues for coach Gary van Egmond.

Captain Jobe Wheelhouse (foot infection) could play after missing the Glory game.

Gold Coast United had four key players missing from their 0-0 draw against Central Coast, but two look set to return in time to face the Jets.

Paul Beekmans' one-match suspension has expired, while Kristian Rees could potentially take his place in the starting XI just days after breaking a bone in his hand in an innocuous training incident. Dylan Macallister (hamstring) is unlikely, while Glen Moss (adductor) is out for the long term.

Danger men: Kasey Wehrman - With Newcastle's current defensive arrangement turning to water over the past few weeks, greater responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of whoever Gary van Egmond chooses to play as his screener in midfield.

Invariably it's been the veteran Wehrman in that No.6 role, and as the Jets back four come under increasing scrutiny it's crucial that they are given a little extra protection. The 34-year-old can do that, and demands the same sort of commitment to the cause from his teammates that he shows.

Peter Jungschlager - Why on earth is this 27-year-old not getting the recognition he deserves? Maybe it's because when he's on form, you don't even notice he's there. Call him Gold Coast's silent assassin, then - the quiet and unassuming Dutchman requires no fanfare, he simply gets on with his job of doing the damage in the middle of the park, adding a much-needed touch of class and guile to United's young and enthusiastic squad along the way.

At the end of the day… At the start of the season, these two sides were shunned by the critics. They were labelled cellar-dwellers before the campaign had even begun.

Looking at the ladder alone would vindicate those predictions, but of course the ladder doesn't tell the whole story. The truth is Newcastle are lucky to be in eighth position, only five points from the top four. In weeks gone by, the lack of quality in their squad has been exposed and their defence has proved to be their achilles heel. Clearly Gary van Egmond is having trouble picking up the pieces left by the Culina regime.

It's rotten luck alone that has Gold Coast in bottom spot, and not the Jets.

Injuries, red cards, penalties, suspensions, line-ball referee calls - they all conspired against United over the course of their horror start to the season. But that's in the past now.

Over the past four weeks they've staged a mini-resurgence, beating Brisbane and Adelaide while holding Sydney and Central Coast to scoreless draws. It's not for nothing that they have kept four consecutive clean sheets, a club record.

On recent form - including their convincing win over Newcastle early in the season - we simply have to back Gold Coast.