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Can the Newcastle Jets make the finals?

Wayne Brown of the Jets takes a shot at goal during the round 1 A-League match between the Newcastle Jets and Adelaide United at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Riley Buchanan new author
Roar Rookie
31st January, 2017
14

Since winning their maiden A-League title, in 2007-08, Newcastle have only qualified once for finals football in nine seasons.

The question is, under Mark Jones, can the Jets rise above this horrible record and make the post-season?

Why they’ll make the finals
Newcastle are buoyed by the experience of Morten Nordstrand, Wayne Brown and Nigel Boogaard in each third.

Boogaard is a natural leader and a stubborn defender, Nordstrand brings a wealth of experience – particularly with his finishing – and Brown is the essential middle man to Newcastle’s 4-2-1-3 style.

Then there’s the young talent in the squad, such as Andrew Nabbout, Andrew Hoole, and Steven Ugarkovic. Nabbout is a strong and dangerous midfielder, and he and Hoole have the pace and skill to catch any team off guard.

Meanwhile, Ugarkovic is important to breaking down attacks in his more defensive midfield role.

There are other players that are important for the Jets, such as Ma Leilei and Jason Hoffman, but not to the same extent.

The most important thing at this stage in the competition is keeping these critical players from injuries. As Jones has said, things are easier with a full squad, and the Jets lack the depth to replace these key players.

Why they won’t make finals
The Jets need to start keeping clean sheets and get better at finishing. The perfect example of this came last week, against Melbourne City, when Nabbout tripped Ivan Franjic resulting in a penalty in the 68th minute. It let City right back into the game and made the last few minutes much tighter.

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In other games, they have given away goals through mistakes or poor defending, and not been so lucky at the final whistle (such as the 2-2 draw with Perth the round before).

The City match further illustrates my point, as Newcastle had plenty of opportunities to finish the game, whether it was through Leilei or Hoole, but instead they were either not clinical enough or not composed.

I am confident that this can be remedied and the players will grow into the season. If not, their race to the finals will be as nerve-wracking as the end to the City game.

Verdict
Yes, they can make this season’s finals. They are among the best of the contenders for the bottom two places, and their attacking quality and experience should see them finish fifth.