Sunday, October 27, 2013
Wellington Phoenix vs. Newcastle Jets
Head-to-head: Played: 19, Wins: Wellington 12, Newcastle 5, Draws: 2
Previous encounter: Wellington 1-2 Newcastle, February 27, 2013
Form: Past five matches (including pre-season):
Phoenix: DLLWL Jets: DLLDL
The Game: The Nix defied the odds to come from behind and snare a point on their trip to Western Sydney last weekend, in a promising sign in the infancy of Ernie Merrick's reign. Now back on home turf, they welcome a fairly listless Newcastle Jets side to town - who have not troubled the scorers in 180 minutes and are the only side yet to score in the league. A potential saviour for that stat - Emile Heskey - remains sidelined by a knee injury. Merrick made four changes from round one to two, with Glen Moss, Leo Bertos, Andrew Durante and Jeremy Brockie - the latter the goalscorer versus Wanderers - all coming in to help Wellington improve from their last-gasp 2-1 loss to Brisbane. It will be interesting to see how Belgian Stein Huysegems is used against the Jets, after he was withdrawn after just 30 minutes in Parramatta for tactical reasons.
The youthful Jets outfit have been poor in their two games thus far - with a 2-0 loss to Sydney made worse by the fact the Sky Blues were routed by Brisbane 4-0 a week later. Gary van Egmond's men need to find a pathway to goal, and fast, if they are to be any realistic finals threat in 2013-14.
The big issue:Wellington - winning. The New Zealand club have won just 32 of their past 88 matches, with just seven successes from 27 matches last season. Sure, 86 of those matches were under former boss Ricki Herbert but a maiden victory for Merrick would go a long way to setting the winning standard this season.
Newcastle - goals. They have enough talent to put balls in dangerous areas, but they just need the right finisher. They can't rely on Heskey to score the lot this campaign.
The game breaker:Carlos Hernandez - the Costa Rican showman finds himself in good fitness and form in the infancy of the season. The former Victory man is yet to find the back of the net, but could find some space around the edge of the area in Napier to rifle home his first in black and yellow.
Prediction: Wellington 3-0 Newcastle The Jets have not troubled the scorer this season, and it is hard to see how they will do so at a venue they have never before played at. It is hard for good teams to come away from NZ with three points - see Brisbane's late show in round one - let alone a team bereft of experience and confidence. Merrick's men should have a flurry of sights on goal, and just need to be clinical to hand their fans in Napier a comfortable victory.