Preview: Newcastle Jets v North Queensland Fury
Another three points at EnergyAustralia Stadium against the Jets and North Queensland could find itself occupying a top six berth if other results fall its way.
Date: Sunday November 8 Kick-off: 5:00pm AEST, 6:00pm (AEDT) Venue: Energy Australia Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 2 and Sky Sports 1. To purchase tickets visit www.proticket.com.au
Head-to-head No Previous meetings
Past five matches: Newcastle: Round 9: Adelaide United 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 11: Newcastle Jets 1, Melbourne Victory 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 12: Newcastle Jets 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 13: Brisbane Roar 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 10: Wellington Phoenix 3, Newcastle Jets 0, Westpac Stadium
North Queensland: Round 9: Perth Glory 1, North Queensland 1, ME Bank Stadium Round 10: Central Coast 1, North Queensland 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 11: North Queensland 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 12: North Queensland Fury 2, Perth Glory 1, Dairy Farmer's Stadium Round 13: Gold Coast United 0, North Queensland 2, Skilled Park
Analysis: There seems to be something building in the north. Not only is the Fury opening team stores and having blokes like James Robinson recognised in Townsville streets but the club's looking for a third consecutive win as it heads off to take on the struggling Jets.
Indeed, another three points at EnergyAustralia Stadium and North Queensland could find itself occupying a top six berth if other results fall its way. It's a far cry from August when the Fury started their inaugural season with three straight losses. Since then, Ian Ferguson's men have only lost once and any sort of points against the Jets will see them claim a six-match unbeaten run, the best of any club in the competition.
More importantly for Ferguson, the extent of his side's improvement was visibly illustrated last Saturday night against fellow new boys Gold Coast United. In Round 2, United slaughtered North Queensland via four goals from Shane Smeltz. Fast forward 11 weeks and the Fury turned the tables against an admittedly distracted Gold Coast side. Robinson bossed Jason Culina around in the middle, a couple of midfielders controlled North Queensland's defence and a bloke named Fowler just kept on doing what he's done best for nigh on 20 years.
The Fury almost snatched a result from an admittedly underdone Wolverhampton at ME Bank Stadium last July, so it was somewhat surprising to see them start life so poorly. What hasn't been surprising is the way this hard-working squad's responded or the way Robinson has played. The likable Liverpool native looked a lonely figure standing on the sidelines at Perth Glory training last year, having endured abdominal muscle surgery that ended his season. You could almost see him vowing to make the most of another opportunity and with the Fury's first-choice midfielders in Robbie Middleby and Ufuk Talay absent through injury, he's taken his chance, although his final shooting game could still use work.
Ferguson, not surprisingly, has kept faith in the squad that beat United and hasn't made any changes. This will allow Talay and Middleby an extra few weeks to recover following the FIFA break while central defender Karl Dodd may also be a chance to return then as well. The danger for the Fury this week though is that they may get a little complacent against a team they're expected to beat.
Newcastle coach Branko Culina took a glass-half-full approach to the Wednesday night's 3-0 loss to Wellington, which could have been much worse but for keeper Ben Kennedy. Although his side may be less rested than North Queensland, Culina said it was good his players only had a few days to dwell on that disappointment before getting a chance to atone in front of a home crowd. The last time they played there, the Jets stunned F3 rivals the Mariners 2-1, exposing a defence rated just about the best in the league through Michael Bridges and Labinot Haliti's hard work.
More importantly, Culina knows the side that played against Wellington was almost his weakest for the season and he's now able to bring in key midfielder Fabio Vignaroli after a one-match absence through injury, defender Adam D'Apuzzo (suspension), Donny de Groot and young striker Sean Rooney. Rooney's absence, through national duty and injury, has robbed the Jets of some much-needed forward depth. But like his more-famous name-sake, he knows how to score goals and adds an element of unpredictability up forward that may expose North Queensland's undermanned back four, which still features midfielders Rostyn Griffiths and Chris Grossman.
Newcastle squad: 1.Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 10. Donny DE GROOT, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 14. Michael BRIDGES, 15. Sean ROONEY, 16. Jason HOFFMAN, 17. Fabio VIGNAROLI, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 25. Labinot HALITI, 26. Ali ABBAS
*four to be omitted*
In: Adam D-APUZZO (returns from suspension), Donny DE GROOT (promoted), Sean ROONEY (returns from injury), Fabio VIGNAROLI (returns from injury)
Unavailable: Ben KANTAROVSKI (international duty), Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite)
North Queensland Fury squad: 1.Paul HENDERSON (GK), 3.Chris TADROSSE, 7. Jason SPAGNUOLO, 9.Robbie FOWLER (c), 10. Jeremy BROCKIE, 11. David WILLIAMS, 14. Chris GROSSMAN, 16. Paul KOHLER, 17. Osama MALIK 18. James ROBINSON, 19. Daniel MCBREEN, 20. Justin PASFIELD, (RGK), 21. John TAMBOURAS, 23. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 24. Dyron DAAL.
Unavailable: Jacob TIMPANO (hamstring - 2 weeks), Karl DODD (knee -2 weeks), Shane STEFANUTTO (knee - indefinite), Scott WILSON (knee - indefinite)