Newcastle Jets boss Ernie Merrick has stressed the importance of making the most of a run of home games with the club sitting in the early-season doldrums of the table.
A miserable 3-0 defeat against Melbourne City on Sunday night curtailed what looked to be some momentum for the Hunter club.
They downed Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 for their first win of the campaign a week previous – despite Merrick admitting they played their worst football of the season – but slipped back out of the top six in Melbourne.
Their current standing in the league is a far cry from the lofty heights reached in the 2017-18 season, along with the excitement that followed the Jets and their story.
Missing Brazilian recruit Jair and with the continued absence of target man Roy O’Donovan, Newcastle looked litsless in attack and struggled to threaten Eugene Galekovic in the City goal.
POTY | Honda doing Honda things. He’s now 4️⃣ points clear of the chasing pack.
— Daily Football Show (@DFS_AUS) December 4, 2018
After a day off on Monday, the Jets cracked straight back into training on Tuesday and began preparations for Sunday’s match against Brisbane Roar.
That game is the Jets’ first in a favourable run of fixtures, at least geographically. Perth Glory’s visit follows the Roar game, and after that, two days before Christmas, comes an F3 Derby a short journey down the highway.
After the Christmas, Newcastle have another home game before the turn of the year against Adelaide United.
“It’s crucial in the next four weeks to start winning games and go on a run of winning games, not just once off,” Merrick said of the upcoming games.
“We’ve played six, lost three, drawn two and won one, and really, that’s a bad start. To me, the most successful teams start off well.
“But of course Victory showed last year you can struggle to win in your first six games and be 23 points behind the league leaders and still win the championship.
“It’s really about getting in the six, and we don’t want to be fifth or sixth. Being up near third spot would be ideal for us.”
Having looked devoid of ideas up front against City, Merrick said he was hopeful Jair would be fit to face Brisbane, while Mitch Austin and Kaine Sheppard were also described as being in with a chance of playing.
Their fellow forward Jason Hoffman echoed Merrick’s sentiments, describing the forthcoming run of games as the “perfect time” to bounce back.
“It’s a perfect time to respond. We’re going back home and we’re playing against a Brisbane Roar team who are going to be desperate to remain in the top six early-on in the season,” he said on Tuesday’s Daily Football Show.
“The table doesn’t lie throughout the season and for us, it’s an opportunity to go straight into the top six and stay in touch with the top half of the table.
“Being at home this week and then again next week against Perth Glory, and a short trip to the Mariners thereafter, it’s a perfect weekend to bounce back and really kick-start our season.
“It will time it well to get some players back on board with Roy O’Donovan having served the next two matches – he’ll be back for the Mariners game.
“I feel like it can all align and we can take that into the Christmas period and kick-start our year.”