Preview: Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Heart
Played 11 - Wins: Newcastle 5, Melbourne Heart 4, Draws: 2
Melbourne Heart 3 - 1 Newcastle Jets, January 17 2014
Past five matches
Newcastle Jets: WLWLD
Melbourne Heart: WWWWW
Melbourne Heart travel to Newcastle on the back of a five-match winning run, with the club looking to maintain their charge up the A-League ladder. Newcastle on the other hand, appear to have stabilised a little under new coach Clayton Zane, the Jets having defeated top sides Brisbane and Western Sydney for two wins in their last three games after a poor start to his tenure.
Both sides, though, will be looking to put some poor stats behind them in such fixtures. For Heart, the Victorian team has never picked up a point from matches in Newcastle, so history is somewhat against them pulling off a win in this encounter.
But at the same time, Heart can take some … errr heart …. from the fact Newcastle have the worst home record of any side in A-League this season, the Jets having picked up just 10 points at Hunter Stadium.
The Big Issue:
Although Newcastle put two past Western Sydney last weekend, the Jets still need to find their scoring mojo on a more consistent basis.
Newcastle have failed to score in nine matches so far this term, the most of any A-League side. However, in the last few weeks, they have started turning this around and with Joel Griffiths, Emile Heskey and Adam Taggart all working well in tandem as a three-pronged forward combination against Wanderers, Heart may have to watch their backs somewhat.
For Heart, there really aren't too many worries at present, although they may struggle to recognise which Jet is which after a mass shaving of heads in the name of charity. Heart, though, are far and away the competition's form team, although no other side this term has managed to make it six consecutive wins, so they have that against them. But when your'e flying, you're flying and as a result the main problem coach John van 't Schip has is at the selection table.
One imagines Aziz Behich, suspended for last week, will come straight back into the side to replace the excellent Ben Garrucio at left back, with van 't Schip left to try and work out how the hell he slots a fit-again Harry Kewell into his in-form midfield.
The game breaker:
For Heart, Mate Dugandzic seems the main man. On top of scoring a spectacular goal in last week's Melbourne Derby – we're not convinced his cross-cum-shot was ever intended to hit the back of the net – the right winger has also laid off four assists with three of them coming in the last three games.
For Newcastle, Taggart is the main man in a big way, the striker having scored 10 goals or 46 percent of his side's overall scores for the campaign. This reliance on Taggart is the highest of any A-League club this season.
Prediction: Melbourne Heart 3 Newcastle Jets 1
Not a huge amount of logic to this one, considering Heart's poor record in Newcastle, but the Melbourne side are riding one serious wave of form and with van 't Schip in charge, have the ability to translate that into more wins.
Van 't Schip is one of the more astute strategic minds in the local game and may just have a bit too much nous in this area for Zane. Add in Newcastle's poor home record and another Melbourne Victory should be on the cards.