Craig Deans admits he knew the 2019/20 season would be “a little tough” considering the star power many of the other W-League squads would be bringing to bear against the Newcastle Jets throughout their campaign.
Just last weekend, Mackenzie Arnold, Katrina Gorry, Tameka Yallop, and Hayley Raso were all involved in Brisbane’s 2–1 win over the travelling Jets. Between them, they boast more than 220 caps for Australia. Newcastle nearly claimed points.
That doesn’t mean his outfit gets a free pass for losses and draws, however. The team has managed just one victory so far this season, against cellar-dwellers Perth, and a strong draw against star-studded Melbourne City in the opening round.
While the team’s defence has been strong—they’ve conceded more than two goals just once, against Canberra, and let more than a single goal past them just twice beyond that—they’ve managed just six goals in seven rounds.
Teigan Collister got on the scoresheet to cancel out Newcastle-turned-Melbourne star Emily van Egmond’s strike in the 1-1 draw against City. Nikki Flannery opened the scoring in a 2–1 win over Perth Glory. Tara Andrews has netted four.
According to Deans, the Jets’ lack of bite over their first six games has come from a lack of possession. Part of that is obviously the system, with the team set up to play around Coelho and the defensive outfit. But that isn’t all there is to it.
“We let ourselves down, we were pretty poor with the ball all day, and we turned it over pretty cheaply, which is something we’ve been talking about a lot,” Deans explained to Newcastle media after their seventh-round defeat.
“We are going backwards too much with our passes and that encouraged them to get pressure on us. They [eventual winners Brisbane Roar] obviously had a lot of chances and Claire did well to keep a few out. But we just didn’t get enough shots on target or have enough quality in the front third again.”
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That’s not to say Deans isn’t pleased with the rearguard action either, especially shot-stopper Claire Coelho, who faced nearly 40 shots in their Sunday battle at Lions Stadium, and conceded just twice.
“We dug in and fought hard, and we defended well for most of the game,” Deans said, when pointing out the positives of the Brisbane loss.
Deans also accepted that the defensive setup that the Jets were focusing on this season came from “going into each week as underdogs,” and said that while it does set the tone, it “doesn’t bother” the determined Newcastle squad.
“Every team in the comp has a lot of international players, so we do go in against a lot of experience every week and it’s the same scenario for us every week, but we quite enjoy it and we’re focusing on ourselves,” he told the Chronicle.
“We think we can win every game, and we acknowledged this was the direction we were going to go with for the season before the first ball was even kicked. It’s our challenge for the year, and we’re improving every game with everything.
“I think our defensive line has been very good this year, we haven’t conceded too many goals, and our back five has the most experience. We just have a lot of work to do in the front third, and that takes time to get an understanding in.”