After a season marred by injuries to key played like imports Katie Stengel and Taylor Smith, as well as high-flying commander Emily Van Egmond, Craig Deans’ Newcastle Jets have found themselves five points adrift from the W-League finals with just three rounds to play.
The question is – can the ladies in blue and red continue their momentum after a strong second half performance spurred them to a 3-1 victory over Perth Glory, and slip into the fourth playoff position in the 2018/19 season?
There’s a few requirements for the miracle run in the final three outings on the season, and with the way the standings are heading into the trio of crucial games the Jets will most definitely need some help from other places.
That said, if the remaining three rounds of matches outside of Newcastle’s control fall in their favour, Deans’ squad has one very simple task in their bid to return to finals footy after their semi-final defeat in 2017/18 – defeat the three teams standing in front of them until February.
Newcastle’s fixtures are favourable in the coming weeks, with clashes against Melbourne City and Adelaide United in the next fortnight giving them massive six-point opportunities if they can manage to score the win in both those two matches.
With six points from the next two rounds, and City missing points through their bye fixture in the second last round, two wins could see the Jets sitting on 16 points heading into the last round of the current season.
It leaves them in an interesting position, with Canberra United and Sydney FC both handed the tough draw of facing league leaders Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar in the following two weeks – fixtures both teams may struggle to come away from with points.
If Melbourne and Brisbane can both collect six points against the finals hopefuls, that leaves the now-fourth and seventh placed teams sitting on their same points tally at the tail end of Round 13 – 15 points for Sydney and just 12 for Canberra.
That gives us this potential table leading into the final round: Victory 25, Brisbane 23, Perth 19, Adelaide 18, Newcastle 16, Sydney 15, City 13, Canberra 12, Western Sydney 1.
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Once the Jets have moved into that fifth place position ahead of the final week, they control their own destiny, with a home game to cellar dwellers the Western Sydney Wanderers on February 1 giving them the potential to move one point clear of an Adelaide side that faces Brisbane in the last round.
With Victory and Roar still neck and neck on the hypothetical table, and with Brisbane’s dominant track record across the season so far, it’s like the northern team will be able to ward off United, leaving Adelaide caught on 18 as the Jets moves into the fourth and final playoff position and prepare for more fixtures in February.
So there you have it – the Jets still control their own fate as they head into Round 12 of the competition, with the added importance of the next two fixtures clear for all to see.
Newcastle will play their next two games away from home, first at CB Smith Reserve Stadium this weekend against Melbourne on Sunday, January 20, before travelling to Adelaide and the Marden Sports Complex the following week.
The Jets’ last home game of the regular season will be held in the last round, when they potentially play off for a chance at the finals – the match will be held at No.2 Sportsground on Friday, February 1.