Predicted Lineup for the Newcastle Jets: Round 1
Newcastle Jets season preview (Image: Supplied)
The first round of Season Eight is near and the Jets form during one of the few uninterrupted preseasons in the club’s A-League history sees fans salivating over who will start against a travel-weary Adelaide United on Sunday.
With Gary van Egmond still deciding on one or two positions, final preparations today and Saturday will likely cement a starting line up of fast, aggressive attackers across the park with a couple of wise heads to steady the ship.
Of particular interest will be who will start as goalkeeper, with form suggesting Mark Birighitti nudging Ben Kennedy out to debut for his new club against his old one, but so close has been the competition for strapping on the number one gloves that any mistakes at training could sway the coaches decision one way or the other.
With Tiago Calvano missing the last four preseason games due to suspension, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Brazilian defender is out due to little game preparation.
But with van Egmond trying Calvano as a defensive midfielder to utilise his passing ability, and new defensive recruits Scott Neville, Josh Mitchell, Dominik Ritter and Craig Goodwin impressing as a backline unit it is safe to say Calvano is likely to start on the bench.
Of particular note has been Goodwin who keeps the forwards honest with their goal tallies, loving nothing more than slaloming through midfield before unleashing a devastating left foot that has scored multiple times from long range in preseason.
So intent on joining the attack throughout preseason the former Melbourne Heart defender has given van Egmond another option for midfield. With Neville and Mitchell also scoring in preseason opposing defences will need to keep one eye out for the marauding Jets wingbacks.
Jets captain Jobe Wheelhouse and Jets veteran – at the ripe old age of 20 – Ben Kantarovski will likely anchor midfield. After having a season to recover from knee injury, young Kantarovski will be looking for an outstanding performance this year as for probably the first time the Jets have young and talented players coveting most if not all starting positions and ‘Kanta’ will be working overtime to keep his starting spot.
The attacking midfield trio for the Adelaide game will likely be Ryan Griffiths, Ruben Zadkovich and Bernardo Ribeiro. Griffiths appears more comfortable out wide but it will be interesting to see if there is any positional switching between Zadkovich and Ribeiro, with Ribeiro having the vision and decision-making ability to be capable in the middle. However, Zadkovich will harry opposing defences, getting in their faces and is also good at linking and taking defences one-on-one.
Interesting from Round three onwards will be where van Egmond fits James Brown in midfield with the injured ex-Gold Coast United midfielder also impressive in preseason and capable of scoring and creating attack. It’s possible to see Brown come in for Zadkovich rather than Ribeiro, with Zadkovich an option for right wing-back or defensive midfield if not warming the pine.
The good news for the lone striker role at this stage will be that Emile Heskey starts against Adelaide. Van Egmond is capable enough not to risk over-working Heskey too soon, but the former England international has shown enough at training that he is fit enough it seems and so some match fitness from much needed game time will see him on his way to debut for the Jets.
What will be interesting is who will replace Heskey around the 60th minute mark. Fellow former English youth international team-mate Michael Bridges would be a natural choice to fill the number nine role but I have my money on Adam Taggart debuting.
Young, fast, technical (van Egmond’s recruitment blueprint), Taggart has been in scintillating, goal scoring form when playing and could just be the player capable of causing a tiring Adelaide United defence all sorts of bother as the sun begins to dip behind the hills of New Lambton Heights, especially if the Jets happen to be behind.
With van Egmond’s new, young squad primed with the attacking, pressing game-play he’s been formulating this past year or so, Novocastrians are eager to see the almost totally transformed squad in action after the long off-season.
Predicted formation and line-up for round one:
Neville Mitchell Ritter Goodwin
Kantarovski Wheelhouse (c)
Griffiths Zadkovich Ribeiro
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