Young Jet Adam Taggart is back from international duty. Image courtesy of smh.com.au
It’s the 31st edition of the F3 Derby between Central Coast and Newcastle , but Clayton Zane’s first as head coach of the Jets. Following the departure of Gary van Egmond, Zane’s initial assignment is to knock-off the reigning champions at Bluetongue Stadium for the first time in six years. At least he has youngsters Adam Taggart, Andrew Hoole, Josh Brillante and Connor Chapman back from international duty. But the Jets’ engines have been spluttering of late with three losses and a draw from their past four games. Last start, Newcastle suffered the embarrassment of going down 3-1 to Heart, ending the cellar-dwellers' 19-game winless streak which stretched almost 12 months.
The Mariners are certainly a hard nut to crack at home. Brisbane is the only side to come away from Gosford with a win this season, while Heart, Victory and the Wanderers have managed to split the points. With just one win from their last six outings, it’s hard to see the Jets toppling a side which has lost only once in the same period.
The biggest problem for Central Coast has been finishing. Barring Heart, the Mariners have scored fewer goals than any other team and have taken the least shots. They squeezed past Sydney FC 1-0 in the previous round, but with Daniel McBreen Matt Simon, Mitchell Duke and Bernie Ibini available should start finding the net more regularly.
Statistics point to a draw . In 30 confrontations between the two franchises, the Coast has won 10, the boys from the Steel City one less. There have been 11 draws, including a 2-2 result when they last met in early November. To add further weight to the theory that goals might be hard to come by, Jets keeper Mark Birighitti has made more saves (61) than any other custodian this season.
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