Preview: Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix

The Phoenix have a dominant record over the Jets, but their away form is less than brilliant, the big question is can they win two straight away from home?

Date:Friday 20 January, 2012 Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT, 8.00pm local Venue: Ausgrid Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 15 Wins: Newcastle 4, Wellington 10, Draws: 1

Previous encounter Wellington 5, Newcastle 2, 23 December 2011

History: The Phoenix confirmed their overall dominance of the Newcastle Jets with their last two fixtures - both at Westpac Stadium.

First up, in Round 2, was a solid 2-0 win that came courtesy of strike from Tim Brown and Daniel. Then, almost a month ago, just to show it wasn't a fluke, the 'Nix smashed the Jets 5-2 in one of their best performances of the season.

Spaniard Dani Sanchez and striker Mirjan Pavlovic each grabbed themselves a brace, while Chris Greenacre joined the celebrations with a goal on his 34th birthday.

Statistics show we are highly likely to get a result on Friday night, with just one draw being fought out despite these two sides locking horns 15 times to date.

Form:

Past five matches: Newcastle: LDWLD Wellington: WLWLW

Summary of form: It's been a tough season for the Hunter boys. Gary van Egmond inherited a squad from the sacked Branko Culina, and it wasn't completely to his liking.

He's in the middle of trying to drill a possession-heavy game into his charges and results show it's been a difficult task. They sit in second last position on the ladder and have found consistency a problem. They have five wins for the season and none of them have come back-to-back. Their last outing was a decent 1-1 derby day draw with Central Coast.

Wellington's last few games might suggest some up-and-down showings, but coach Ricki Herbert argues they've shown 'greater consistency' in that, at no stage this season, have they really hit a rough patch.

Generally they back up from their losses well, as they did last weekend with a last minute Tim Brown header securing a 1-0 win on the Gold Coast. Indeed, there's a good case for them being the Hyundai A-League's surprise packets this term, given that nobody would have expected them to be sitting in the top four this far into proceedings.

Match Committee: Don't expect to see Kasey Wehrman in Newcastle colours anytime soon - the veteran midfielder is on the outer and has been told he is no longer wanted. That, and the rest of the matters at the selection table for the Jets, is business as usual.

Wellington look set to give Mark Paston an extended run in goal, and after his performance against Gold Coast United it's hard to see why not. American Alex Smith, who also signed a contract tying him to the Kiwis until the end of the season, is another who is likely to start.

Danger men: Ryan Griffiths - The Jets have begun talks with 30-year-old attacker Griffiths with regards to a contract extension. In truth it would be silly if they did anything else.

Griffiths has been incredible for the blue-and-reds this season, leading the club's goalscoring charts with seven and confirming himself as one of the most important players on the Newcastle list. He also fits well into the type of game van Egmond wants his team to play.

Dani Sanchez - The Spaniard is the centre piece of Wellington's quality strikeforce. That mantle used to belong to Paul Ifill, but Sanchez has now assumed that role allowing the Barbados international to fly under the defensive radar somewhat.

The quick, skillful midfielder, who was a product of La Liga outfit Malaga, has allowed the Phoenix a different approach in the final third, and also has the vision and the passing range to bring other players into attack.

At the end of the day… Wellington are well-placed to complete a clean sweep of wins over Newcastle this season. After two convincing victories at home, they arrive at Ausgrid Stadium with high levels of confidence after their win over Gold Coast. T

hey also come up against a team who simply has not kicked into gear at all this term. And they'll benefit this week because travel will be less of an issue - after their triumph at Skilled Park, they've remained in Australia and trained near Newcastle in preparation for this match.

The 'Nix only won their first away match last weekend, so is it too much to expect them to double up and do it again? Probably, but then again Ricki Herbert's sides have made a habit of ignoring expectations and winning when nobody thought they were in with a shot. We fancy them to do that again on Friday.