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ALM: Jets welcome fresh troops for Victory showdown

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The Newcastle Jets are set to welcome back several stars for this weekend’s vital clash with the Melbourne Victory at McDonald Jones Stadium.

After another heart-breaking loss, this time 2-1 to the Wellington Phoenix in the previous round, the Rob Stanton-coached outfit tackles the unbeaten second-placed team on home soil on Saturday 3 February.

And, thankfully, Reno Piscopo, Thomas Aquilina and Clayton Taylor could rejoin the A-League Men’s (ALM) squad while Lachlan Bayliss is expected to feature in the youth showdown.

It’s a timely boost for Newcastle, who sits five points outside the top six.

Newcastle Jets head coach Rob Stanton. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“We’ve had a few players suffering from fatigue over the past few weeks, with lots of travel and short turnarounds,” Stanton said.

“Unfortunately, Reno was one… he’s been quite sore.

“But, we’ll use him in some capacity, whether we start him or he comes off the bench, we’ll make that decision closer to kick-off.

“However, he’s overcome a tightness in his hamstrings.

“So, resting him was just a precaution.

“I didn’t want to play him too early, then lose him due to another rebuild.

“At this point, he’s good to go, which is great.

“Clayton will be in the squad, too.

“We’ve missed his creativity, speed and ability to get free under pressure and cause damage, expose players’ weaknesses defensively.

“He does that really well, so it’ll be nice to have him in some capacity.

“Thomas Aquilina is available this weekend as well; he’d been playing well.

“Also, Lachie (Bayliss) is coming back from injury.

“I’m really pleased to get more bodies, which is handy.

“The biggest issue for us in the past three weeks has been the short turnarounds and the matches.

“It’s not so much the training, we probably haven’t done enough to work on things.

“We’ve virtually been playing and recovering.

“But, this week, we have got in and worked on a few areas.”

We’re still in that period where we haven’t, as a collective, been able to seal the deal or put a team to bed when we’re in front.

Rob Stanton

Although the Jets have only amassed 16 points, from four victories and four draws, Stanton remains confident his side can book a play-off berth in 2023/24.

“There’s about 12 games remaining, so there is still time,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Plus, we’ve got a good run of home matches coming up as well.

“I was quite happy with our performance last week.

“Obviously, the result you want is three points, especially at McDonald Jones Stadium.

“However, that was the only thing that really disappointed me.

“We put ourselves in a good position to win… and I thought we did a really good job.

“That was against the top team, we face another on Saturday.

“But, they’re the matches you want to play because they really test you.

“So, I’m looking forward to that.

“I honestly believe there’s plenty of evidence to suggest we can make the top six.

“There are little things we have to get right, improve on.

“And, if we can do that, we’ll be a good chance to challenge for a spot in the top half of the table.

“In saying that, we need to secure wins at home and, this weekend, it’s an important game.

“What you see now and what you’ll see in another five weeks [on the ladder] will change again.

“I’ve seen it happen… you must get on a roll.

“We’ve put ourselves in positions many times this year, where we’ve had the chance to go back-to-back and just missed out in the last minute.

“That would have created a little bit of momentum.

“So, we need to find a way to secure the victory and keep progressing forward.

“I like the style of football we’ve been playing and how we want to play is coming to life very well.

“There’s been really good growth in the players.

“However, they need to own those big moments, like the other top sides do.

“They don’t make mistakes and they know how to manage games.

“We’re still in that period where we haven’t, as a collective, been able to seal the deal or put a team to bed when we’re in front.

“That comes with experience and more exposure.

“It’s all part of the learning curve.

“But, as far as developing players at the moment, I’m really happy with where we’re at.”

The creative Reno Piscopo is expected to return this weekend, too. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

And, from Stanton’s perspective, that’s pushing the Victory all the way, too.

So far in 2023/24, Melbourne is yet to taste defeat.

“They’re very good team, they’re undefeated,” he said.

“So, there’s an incentive to be the first side to grab the three points from them.

“I thought the last time we played the Victory, we did quite well.

“We scored three goals and had another disallowed.

“There were lots of other opportunities for us to score more.

“Melbourne is an excellent side on paper, probably the best in the league.

“If you look at consistency, that’s the one thing they have over many opposition teams… it’s because they’ve got depth and quality of players, individuals that can win your games.

“It’s certainly a good challenge for the boys and something we should embrace.

“We need to look forward to it because it’s a chance to set a mark that we can compete with the best.

“I want to be on the front foot as much as we can.

“Like I said, the Victory is a quality side, so you have to test yourself.

“I believe we can get the three points, just based on every match we’ve played.

“We’ve been competitive for most of our games.

“Then, if we get the win, who knows?

“It might kick off a run, especially with several home fixtures up our sleeve.

“I feel our performances are there, we just need the [positive] results.

“The fans want it, I want it.

“I want to win; I’m playing to win.

“So, I thought from an entertainment point of view, last week was good… from a results point of view, it was disappointing.

“However, if we re-address a few issues, work hard on them at training, I’m sure it will all turn around.”

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