Derby a chance to cull ‘same old Jets’ label

HEAD ON: Newcastle Jets coach Mark Jones and Central Coast Mariners opposite Paul Okon. Both are hoping to end the other’s finals hopes in the F3 Derby on Sunday. Picture: Marina Neil
Nanjing Night Net

HOME-GROWN coach Mark Jones has heard “the same old Jets” line more often than he cares to.

Frustrated supporters, lamenting yet another season without finals football.

As far as fans go, the top six is the barometer. Little else matters.

The Jets sit in seventh place on 21 points, three adrift of Western Sydney, with seven rounds remaining.

In recent weeks they have missed opportunities to establish themselves in the six and breakaway from the chasing pack.

Wins over Brisbane (3-2), Melbourne City (2-1) and a draw with Melbourne Victory (0-0) have been interspersed with losses to Wanderers (2-), Perth Glory (3-2) and Adelaide (1-0).

On Sunday, the Jetsare home to a resurgent Central Coast Mariners.

It is arguably the most meaningful F3 derby since the Jets beat their arch rivals in the 2008 grand final, played nine years ago last Friday. A loss for either at McDonald Jones Stadium would all but end any realistic chance of progressing to the play-offs.

“In terms of town it is very important,” Jones said. “You don’t want to hear ‘it’s the same old Jets’that seems to be the war cry. We need to change that. The educated football fans know we are playing good football and probablythe best football since the days when wewon the grand final. For the non-footballer we need to make the six and confirm to them we are on the right path.It is time to be stand up and be counted.I thought we should have done that last week. We missed that opportunity and definitely need to take it on Sunday.”

The Mariners, who stormed back into contention with three straight wins before going down 3-0 to Victory, are two points behind the Jets.

“For both teams, every game until the end of the season is going to be like a final,” Mariners coach Paul Okon said. “It’s a derby, but bragging rights aremore for supporters. For us, we want to win because it means we stay in touch with the top six. Ithink it will be a really tight game. Both teams will not want to lose. I really hope there is that derby atmosphere to it and a real contest.”

The Jets, who haven’t lost to their arch rivals at home since 2012,are without suspended trio Nigel Boogaard, Wayne Brown and Ma Leilei. Aleksandr Kokko is likely to start at the point and rookie Johnny Koutroumbis will cover at the back.

The Mariners welcome skipper Nick Montgomery back from a one-match ban.

“They playdecent football,” Jones said. “Roy O’Donovan has scored a dozen goals and they have speed out wide, but you can say that about most teams.”