The Newcastle Jets are still searching for their first win of the season, and assistant coach Ash Wilson says they have a good chance of claiming a vital three-point victory as they face a Sam Kerr-less Perth Glory this weekend on the road.
After 71 appearances for Perth across two stints, the Matildas’ leading lady traded in a return to Australian shores for a two-and-a-half-year deal with English league giants Chelsea reportedly worth $1.5 million.
Of course, while Kerr is looking to the future of women’s football across the world, the departure of the two-time Ballon d’Or—an achievement no other Aussie footballer, male or female, has achieved—left Glory on the backfoot for this season.
All of this means Perth has slipped down the standings considerably to start the 2019/20 season, finding the back of the net just once in their opening two matches and collecting zero points against Canberra and Sydney.
That doesn’t mean Glory aren’t a dangerous prospect for the Jets, especially as the Newcastle squad fly over to west coast for their round 4 meeting.
Perth are still stacked with international talents, including Arianna Romero, Morgan Andrews, Crystal Thomas, and Celia Jiménez Delgado, to replace Kerr and fellow Glory star from last season Rachel Hill.
Craig Deans’ side faces another daunting prospect too: their somber form line against Glory when playing in Perth. The Jets have never beaten their western opponents away from home, drawing five and losing five since the W-League began.
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“It’s going to be an interesting one, because they were actually quite predictable previously with Sam [Kerr], because you know what they want to do is get the ball to her,” Deans explained ahead of the upcoming Saturday evening fixture.
“Now there’s an even spread of responsibility, we’re going to have to work out some tactical things. The girls have been tactically very good this year so I’m sure whatever we come up with, they will put into practice, but it will be a different Perth Glory team, but it could be more difficult in some sense.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Deans’ right-hand commander Ash Wilson too, who preached caution for the Jets when she spoke to media on Wednesday afternoon.
“I think they’ll be itching to win and you can’t write any team off in this comp, there are upsets galore and you can never count any of the teams out,” she said.
“Sam was their go-to and obviously her partner up the top in Hill, they used to combine quite well and were quite dangerous. Obviously a change in that might may change the style or the way they look to build up and create opportunities.
“We just want to concentrate on what we can do with the ball and maintain those things that we’ve been doing well in terms of defending. We tried to go at Canberra and the Wanderers. I don’t see us changing.
“We [Deans and Wilson] talked to the girls about picking their moments, so at times we might be a little bit conservative and hold and work, and there will be times where we look to get at them and try to win the ball high. We’ve got the ability to change up what we do in the front third and how we win the ball back.”
The starting lineup is also expecting to retain a familiar look for the fourth week in a row on Saturday evening, with Annabel Martin (knee), Sophie Nenadovic (ankle) and Renee Pountney (foot) all still on the road to recovery.
Deans confirmed Martin may be the closest to being up for selection, with her knee injury entering a rehabilitation stage, but admitted he was fine with not pushing them to return if it meant they were fighting fit once they hit the park.
The Jets have left for Perth today ahead of their 10.15pm AEDT kickoff on Saturday night at the Dorrien Gardens. The match will be live on Kayo Sports.