JETS keeper Jack Duncan could not have been more blunt: “You never want to lose a derby, and we definitely don’t want to lose one this weekend”.
The Jets take on fierce rivals Central Coast Mariners in the F3 derby at Gosford on Saturday night.
The second-placed visitors could be forgiven for travelling south with an eye on the home grand-final qualifier on April 27.
Perhaps that has been the case in the past three losses to Perth (2-0), Melbourne City (3-0) and Adelaide (5-2).
“It is hard not to say we have wrapped up second spot,” Duncan said. “It is a fantastic achievement for the team and the club. What the boss has been saying for the past few weeks is just focus on the game ahead of us, and we will do that this weekend. You never want to lose a derby. We definitely don’t want to lose one this weekend. It is a great way to end the regular season, a massive game. We will definitely focus on the Mariners and then we will get to whoever we are playing in the semi-final after that.”
The Jets have won both encounters against the arch rival this season, thrashing the home side 5-1 in round one and 2-0 at McDonald Jones Stadium in round 15.
“We have had two good results against them this year and will be looking to add a third,” Duncan said.
The win in Gosford was a statement by the Jets and the launching pad for a successful campaign.
“For us to go out and put the performance on we did really set us up well for the season. We ran away with it from there. It’s about getting that belief back.”
The Mariners have lost five straight, including three under caretaker coach Wayne O’Sullivan, and could yet collect the wooden spoon.
“They won’t want to finish on the bottom of the table,” Duncan said. “They will be up for it like they always are. They probably have players playing for their future at the club. The new coach has tweaked the way they play. We have looked at that and ways to break them down and exploit them. We just need to focus on what we do well, and that is scoring goals. It makes it easier on the whole team when we are scoring goals. We went through a patch in the middle of the year where we were scoring goals from everywhere. That is what we have to get back to.”
The Jets, after hitting the target in a club-record 24 games, have been held to nil in the past two.
The departure of Andrew Nabbout to Japan and suspension to Roy O’Donovan have had an impact, but rivals are also setting up their defence to combat the Jets’ strengths.
“When we have dominated games in terms of possession and passes is when we have struggled to score goals,” Duncan said. “We are so efficient on the counter attack and quick going forward, opposition teams have looked to stop that aspect. It is about learning how to adapt to different situations and breaking down teams when they sit behind the ball. For us it is about playing forward, facing forward, doing the things we are good at – getting in the box and scoring goals.”
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