If Newcastle can’t beat Wellington on Saturday, they don’t deserve a spot in the A-League finals, Jets skipper Ruben Zadkovich says.
With just four games remaining the Hunter Stadium clash shapes as crucial for both the Jets and Wellington’s finals hopes.
Newcastle sit two points outside the top-six with the Phoenix just a point behind them in eighth place.
And Zadkovich feels if they can’t claim victory on Saturday, they shouldn’t be in the playoffs.
“I feel it’s a game we should win,” Zadkovich said on Friday.
“If we want to play finals football we’ve got to be good enough to beat Wellington.
“We’re playing Wellington at home and if you can’t win these games you don’t really deserve to be in the finals.”
Wellington have gone three weeks without a win but have a good record against the Jets, beating them 3-2 the last time they met.
In fact, Newcastle have the worst overall loss percentage of any team against the Phoenix, having gone down in 13 of 22 games in their A-League history.
They may be hit by injuries with the likes of playmaker Carlos Hernandez (quad) and Paul Ifill (Achilles) sidelined but Zadkovich is all too aware that with Belgian Stein Huysegems, Kenny Cunningham and Jeremy Brockie fit and firing Wellington can cause all sorts of trouble for the Jets’ defence.
“They’ve got a few players who are dangerous and it will take our whole defensive unit to keep them quiet,” he said.
“They’ve got a few options in the centre of the park but I’m confident whoever they choose I can do my job and if I do it well enough I’ll keep them quiet.”
After back-to-back wins the Jets were brought back down to earth with a 3-1 loss to fierce rivals Central Coast last week, a loss that cost keeper Mark Birighitti his No.1 spot with Ben Kennedy selected for Saturday’s game.
A sluggish start against the Mariners saw Newcastle concede two goals in the first six minutes.
Slow starts have been a problem for the Jets, who are the only side yet to score inside the opening 15 minutes of a game this season, and Zadkovich says that needs to be rectified.
“Our starts have been something that has been letting us down massively,” he said.
“Last week was a bit of a debacle at the start of the game and we’re looking to rectify that.
“This week we really want to start well on the ball and really dictate play and take it to Wellington.”