Preview: Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory

There's no real heat between these two sides like you see in other rivalries, but they last time they met it was a feisty affair down in the Hunter.

Date: Saturday, 31 December 2011 Kick-off: 4.00pm AEDT, 4.00pm local Venue: Ausgrid Stadium

Head-to-head Played 19: Wins: Newcastle 6, Perth 9, Draws: 4

Previous encounter Newcastle 2, Perth 0, 5 November 2011

History: There's no real heat between these two sides like you see in other rivalries, but they last time they met it was a feisty affair down in the Hunter. The Jets did the business on that occasion, with a first-half double from Kiwi attacker Jeremy Brockie enough for them to escape with the three points. All previous 10 games between these two clubs played at Ausgrid Stadium have ended up with a result - that's a win to either side - so fans can expect a good, hard encounter.


Past five matches: Newcastle: DWLLL Perth: LWLLL

Summary of form: Both teams have had a rough run of late. They're on equal points on the table and only a fractionally better goal difference allows Perth to sit ahead in seventh above the Jets, who are in eighth. Last week, Newcastle were humbled 5-2 by a rampant Wellington Phoenix side, which was their third straight defeat. The Glory, too, are reeling from a hat-trick of losses. In their last outing they were swept aside by the Mariners in Perth, and they only have one win out of their past six games.

Match Committee: Newcastle defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley has been demoted to the bench, with recent hamstring issues steering him towards a patch of bad form. Captain Jobe Wheelhouse remains in doubt with a foot infection, while Kasey Wehrman, Michael Bridges, Ali Abbas and Jacob Pepper have all been drafted into a 19-man squad. In Perth, the medical room is packed. Chris Coyne is out with an Achilles injury for three months, sharpshooter Shane Smeltz (groin), Scott Neville (knee), Andrezinho (hamstring) and Neil Young (abdominal) will all miss. Add Victor Sikora, who is on the long-term injury list with a hip problem, and Josh Mitchell, who is suspended, and there are plenty of headaches for the men in purple.

Danger men:

Ryan Griffiths - In truth, Griffiths has been Newcastle's only real reliable danger man all season. With a crafty left foot and a tendency to make darting runs in the final third, the Jets forward has bagged five goals so far this term and stands up when the chips are down. They are again this weekend, so Perth will have to be wary of the energy fan favourite Griffiths can generate - particularly in front of a home crowd in the Hunter.

Travis Dodd - With Kiwi goal machine Shane Smeltz out this week, former Adelaide captain Dodd has been presented with the perfect stage for him to reproduce his goal-scoring heroics, which were one of the hallmarks of his time in his native South Australia. He has just one goal so far in his debut campaign in purple and white, but last year he had six. Injury has been a factor, as always, but Dodd is in the starting XI now, so the time is right for a flashback of his glory days.

At the end of the day…

Along with Adelaide, these two sides must be considered to be amongst the season's biggest disappointments. Granted, the Jets had an incredibly interrupted pre-season with the sacking of Branko Culina and the attempts to tear up his son Jason's contract, but despite good signs early their squad is simply lacking in firepower and quality. While other teams like the Heart, Central Coast and the Roar have taken off, Newcastle has been left behind. In WA, it's the same old Glory story - a lot of involvement in the transfer market, big names, big promises, big confidence, and then... nothing. Coach Ian Ferguson is feeling the heat as well, with just one win to show for their last six games despite a star-studded squad.

They're not usually the ingredients for an exciting match, are they? But it should be intriguing to watch - both teams are desperate for a win, and the need to secure victory can bring out the best in some footballers. Is Gary van Egmond's message finally getting through to Newcastle? Can the Perth players lift for their embattled coach? It's almost too close to call. But given Perth's poor away form - that trip over the Nullarbor is a killer - we'll give the Jets the benefit of the doubt because of home ground advantage.