I’ve procrastinated for too long.
How the hell do you describe what happened in the match between Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory on Sunday at McDonald Jones Stadium?
You’d be dirty if the kids were a touch tardy getting ready, or you had to pick up some Christmas wrap, and you were a couple of minutes late, I know that .
Could have been the best start ever, and turned into close to the worst in recent memory.
Actually that’s probably a bit harsh. The time frame no doubt exaggerated the impact of events.
Where else in life can you be so close to nirvana after 10 seconds and left red-faced, riddled with angst and regret, and with a mess to sort out inside a minute?
Err, those with long memories of a pimply, nervous adolescence please disregard the previous sentence. It can happen to anyone (so I’m told)!
If you hadn’t watched the game, and just read the result in the paper, you could be forgiven for surmising that the sixth-placed Jets had found the challenge of the unbeaten league leaders a step up in class, and been comfortably seen off by the visitors. That scenario couldn’t be any further from the truth.
The Jets controlled possession, territory and just about any other key statistical indicator you’d care to name, and lost.
That happens in football.
The Jets team leave disappointed, Perth Glory leave delighted but probably acutely aware that their Christmas arrived a week early, and both prepare for the next game.
In my experience, you can over-analyse games like these, where one team grabs an early advantage (or two), and digs in to protect a lead.
I’m not too sure you can do it every week and win a minor premiership (although it could certainly pay dividends in a one-off game like a grand final).
But the game’s early sequences, and the Jets’ incessant pressure, ensured that would be Perth’s method on Sunday.
As someone who has consistently expressed the view that good teams must have the humility and versatility to win ugly at times, I can’t criticise Perth’s approach.
But at the same time I’d be telling my players to consider it a back-handed compliment that the league leaders had to, yes, defend professionally, but also ride their luck to a degree, and consciously disrupt the game’s rhythm to beat us.
Suffice to say that if Newcastle can reproduce the football they dished up on Sunday on a regular basis, they will be ultra-competitive with all comers in this league.
A repeat of their output will account for the Mariners this Sunday, barring a huge chunk of ill fortune.
In my experience, you can over-analyse games like these.
The long-awaited return of Roy O’Donovan will doubtless capture much attention this week, and it’s almost impossible to imagine he won’t improve the Jets attack.
Hopefully expectations won’t border on blind reliance, as the Irishman works his way back to top nick.
There is no arguing the Jets have struggled in front of goal (seven goals in eight games) in his absence, but there has been a sense that Jair and Dimi Petratos are on the cusp of a purple patch, given their efforts in recent matches.
As is customary at this time of year, I wandered into the TAB for research purposes yesterday lunchtime, in the hope of enlightenment, and perhaps a present for you dear reader.
What I found was that O’Donovan and Jair were both at $41 in the leading goalscorer’s market, in front of all other Jets, but well down the overall list.
That tells its own story.
Adam Le Fondre, for the record, remains favourite at $3.75 in front of Messrs Taggart, Ikonomidis and Keogh at $6.
Toivenen at $9 looks like he will score plenty, but with Honda taking free kicks and penalties, it might be asking too much.
Fornaroli has blown from $4 to $13 as he continues to be the highest-paid spectator in the A-League.
If you have been wowed by Melbourne Victory’s form you can get $4 about them to win the title, the Jets kept safe at $11. If you enjoy other people’s pain, and a short-priced favourite, the $1.40 about the Mariners to get the wooden spoon may seem very attractive.
That can change quickly. though.
Three weeks ago Wellington were at $2.50 to finish last, but today they are $13.
If you’d like to support the Jets, but think the title is beyond them, perhaps the $1.80 about them to finish in the top six provides emotional nourishment, and a better-than-bank-interest return?
If you can’t find anything you like there may I suggest a couple of gift vouchers and a good lie down.
More pertinently, as Christmas falls on Tuesday next week, this is my opportunity to wish you a happy, safe, and fun-filled festive season.
Go Jets, and go Santa.
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