Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders, resist the urge to chuckle, and suppress the impulse to declare that you could see it coming. Not for the first time a Newcastle football team was excellent against a big-name opponent, and frustratingly unable to beat a far less talented team in the following game.
To be fair, the majority of teams have been up and down since the four-month hiatus, energetic one game, flat in the next, or vice versa. And Novocastrian punters will attest that it's not a malaise restricted to one code after the Knights' loss to the Bulldogs on the weekend scuppered a host of multis!
The chances of play-off participation for the Jets since the A-League's resumption were always slim. They were listed as a $34 chance on Sportstab as of yesterday lunchtime, and Adelaide - currently in seventh position - were $2.15, to give you an idea of the reality of "mathematically possible". It won't be happening.
The Jets could very possibly win their past two matches, though injuries to Bernie Ibini and Matt Millar, who provided much of their attacking thrust in the matches against Sydney and the Mariners, will require some tactical tinkering.
Coach Carl Robinson has indicated previously that several relatively untried players would get an opportunity once semi-final aspirations had expired, and realistically we are at that point. He has also intimated that he wants his team to play a certain way, and some players are better suited to the style he wants to deploy.
The team he picked against Sydney was perhaps influenced by fitness levels, training loads, quarantine restrictions and the like, and an opponent that whilst technically proficient, lacks the physicality and balance of previous seasons.
Robinson went with his most mobile combination, bar perhaps Abdiel Arroyo, and was vindicated with a strong showing against a team who rested their best player, Milos Ninkovic. Sydney also lost Rhyan Grant, who provides much of their thrust and athleticism from right back, in the first half.
Sydney, on the back-up from their first match back four days earlier, were well held in midfield, comprehensively undone by Millar and Ibini down Newcastle's right, and generally second best against a fresh and lively Jets side.
Three days later, Robinson understandably rewarded the team who had done a job on Sydney with selection against the Mariners at Gosford.
It would be easy in hindsight to suggest that some changes might have freshened the team, or perhaps averted the injuries to Millar and Ibini. But let's be honest, this is a very modest Mariners outfit, to be kind, and the Jets played through them with some comfort in the first half.
The failure to put the Mariners to the sword didn't come down to freshness, tiredness, or athleticism, it boiled down to the lack of silk and quality in the front third.
While Boogaard and Topor-Stanley would scarcely remember an easier night in their combined 500-plus games, the Jets didn't create a whole lot in the Mariners defensive third against a team that was hardly compact or miserly.
Roy O'Donovan's forte is as a penalty-box striker, not necessarily as a link-up No.9, who helps to move the opposition's central defence around with clever interplay and intricate skill. If he leads the line in a front three, Robinson will probably need some guile and craft close to the Irishman, at the top of his midfield.
That is likely to be Dimi Petratos, but given the current circumstances, we may not find out until next season.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN OTHER NEWS
- NRL: Hooking curse strikes against as Knights left with selection headaches
- Rugby League: Wyong Roos captain-coach injured; Pickers set up top-of-the-table clash
- Rugby Union: Eastwood coach praises Wildfires' spirit and tips wins to follow
- A-League: Newcastle Jets tick to flight path in race to finals
- Hockey: Olympian mariah Williams denied by determined Oxfords' defence