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ALW: Jets ready for big test, says Campbell

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With a play-off berth within sight, the Newcastle Jets are preparing to face one of their biggest tests in the A-League Women’s (ALW) this weekend.

Currently in sixth spot, level with the Perth Glory on 24 points, Ryan Campbell’s women now tackle the second-placed Melbourne City at City Football Academy Field on Sunday 10 March.

That means a victory or draw is imperative as the race to the semis heats up.

Newcastle Jets ALW coach Ryan Campbell. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“We’re all excited, to be honest,” Campbell said.

“I don’t think you could have a better time to play Melbourne because they’ve been on a bit of a downer recently with their results.

“Obviously, at some stage, that’s going to end because they’re a quality side.

“So, we need to be switched on from the start.

“We gave them a really good battle earlier in 2023/24… I feel if we want to become one of those top teams, and challenge for titles for example, it’s a game we need to win.

“I’m not afraid to say it’s a big match.

“It is something we’re working hard on to try and go down there – and come home with the three points.”

Newcastle missed a golden opportunity at Maitland at the weekend.

Despite enjoying the territorial advantage, and having 40 shots on goal, the Jets had to share the spoils with the Perth Glory, via a 1-all draw.

“Yeah, it was frustrating,” Campbell said.

“However, it’s a mixture of a few things, including pride.

“We worked for two weeks on being better with the ball and being a bit more dominant.

“Although we won the match against the Brisbane Roar, we didn’t really dominate the game.

“We sort of sat back, frustrated them and then caught them with the counter.

“Clearly, Sarina (Bolden) had a lot more space in that fixture because of the way Brisbane plays.

“Whereas we knew we weren’t going to get that type of game against Perth.

“So, we had to come out and have a bit more control, otherwise we were going to just keep giving the ball back to the Roar.

“Having so much possession and getting the ball near their goal box so many times without creating great chances was frustrating.

“But, in saying that, it’s sort of that area where we’re in… between being a top three/four team or the ones in and around the top six.

“If you look at all the best sides, they’re possession-based.

“They control the game and they create a lot more chances than the opposition does.

The Newcastle Jets celebrate MelindaJ Barbieri’s goal against the Perth Glory at the weekend. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“We’ve looked at it and gone ‘yes, we want to make finals but we also want to make sure when we get there, we can beat those teams’.

“We’re not there to make up the numbers.

“That means we must become more dominant with the ball.

“Otherwise, rivals like Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC will run over us.”

One aspect of the Glory clash that certainly pleased Campbell was the effort of MelindaJ Barbieri.

The striker was a danger every time she touched the ball and grabbed the equaliser in the 77th minute.

“I thought that was her best game by a country mile,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Mindy had a bit of time off between seasons.

“She missed the pre-season we had, so she was always chasing her tail a little bit physically.

“Also, I think we’ve been trying to work out what her best position is and how she fits into the team.

“Maybe, that’s our fault since she’s been at the Jets.

“However, it was great to see that performance in her; obviously, the goal topped it off.

“But, that came because she was high on confidence from the way she was playing.

“So, we’ve got to keep getting her the ball because she’s such a technically good player.

“We just haven’t been able to get her in those positions often enough.”

Overall, local young guns Emma Dundas and Zoe Karipidis have impressed Campbell, too, in 2023/24.

“Emma’s probably been the biggest surprise, she’s only 16,” he said.

“Obviously, Gary (van Egmond) and I gave her a scholarship and she worked very hard to get that.

“However, we didn’t really see her as a starter inside the team yet.

“We thought we’d use this season for Emma to gain some experience, be involved with the squad and maybe travel now and then.

“Build her into the next couple of years.

“But, she’s exceeded our expectations and earned a role as a key player, much to her credit.

“It’s similar to Zoe’s journey.

“She’s also stepped up.

“Again, she didn’t really begin the season as someone you’d expect to be a starting player.

“However, she’s pushed herself into that role.

“And, now, Zoe’s a key member of our defensive line.

“Both of them have probably played a lot more minutes than we originally thought they would.

“It certainly bodes well for the Jets moving forward.

“Our goal at the club is to obviously be successful.

“But, it’s also to bring through a lot of players from our Academy into the A-League and give them the chance to play at the top level without it being a detriment to our overall results.

“Plus, I think it gives the girls, within the Academy, a bit of a buzz to see that as well… it’s something to aim for.”

The match kicks off at 5pm.

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