Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets

With the statistics well and truly in their corner Wellington Phoenix should be confident of victory over Newcastle Jets.

Date: Friday, 23 December 2011 Kick-off: 5.300pm AEDT, 7.30pm local Venue:Westpac Stadium

Head-to-head Played 14: Wins: Wellington 9, Newcastle 4, Draws: 1

Previous encounter Wellington 2, Newcastle 0, 16 October 2011

History: On the basis of statistics, the Phoenix clearly have the wood on Newcastle. With nine wins out of their total 14 meetings, they've only ever lost once to the Jets across the ditch - and that was way back in Wellington's third ever game as a club, in September 2007.

Recent history suggests they're unlikely to repeat that here - the last time they met, the Kiwis were rarely troubled at Westpac Stadium with goals from Tim Brown and Daniel sealing full points.


Past five matches: Wellington: WLWWL Newcastle: LDWLL

Summary of form: Wellington were looking set for an unlikely climb up the table, up until they met Melbourne Victory at the weekend. At AAMI Park, they couldn't push on with their good form and were outplayed 3-1 with Harry Kewell, Archie Thompson and Carlos Hernandez running riot.

They remain two points above the Jets in sixth position, but the Jets have a game in hand. Not that the Hunter club are in any sort of winning form - they've only gleaned four points in total out of their last five games, and are in danger of slipping further into the abyss.

Match Committee: Wellington's Nick Ward won't take any part in Friday's match after he was concussed during their game against his former club, Victory. His injury could pave the way for the return of dynamic Brazilian Daniel while talismanic attacker Paul Ifill remains in doubt.

Newcastle will be without their captain, Jobe Wheelhouse, who is suspended, but four players have been earmarked for a potential start, centre back Nikolai Topor-Stanley, youngster Jacob Pepper, winger Ali Abbas and veteran Michael Bridges.

Danger men:

Alex Smith - Unceremoniously discarded by Gold Coast United on the eve of the season, the 26-year-old is starting to show why some of the A-League's sharpest minds were so interested in him in the first place.

Aside from his incredible versatility - the American can play anywhere in front of the back four - Smith also has a keen eye for goal. His brilliant curling finish, which stole Wellington a consolation goal in Melbourne, was merely a taste of what he's capable of - just wait until he starts living up to his nickname, 'Hang-Time'.

Francis Jeffers - Newcastle fans are yet to see the best from the 'fox in the box' in this, his second stint with the club. While he was a source of inspiration in his guest stint last season, since rejoining the Jets he has played 343 minutes of football without providing a single goal or assist.

Even coach Gary van Egmond admits it might take a change in formation for the Hunter club to get the best out of the former Arsenal and Everton marksman. Here's hoping it comes this week.

At the end of the day…

The statistics on this one are completely lop-sided. Wellington have been brilliant at home this season, raking in 13 points from their seven matches at the Cake Tin. Conversely, the Jets have been horrible away from the Hunter Valley with just one solitary points to show for their five road games.

Recent form clearly favours the Phoenix, and the last time they locked horns it was a comprehensive victory to the yellow and black side.

As if there wasn't enough going against the Jets this week, they'll have to do it all without their skipper, Jobe Wheelhouse. They are a better side than what their results suggest, but cold hard evidence means we can't go past Wellington.