VALENTINO Yuel made a spectacular start to life at the Newcastle Jets.
Unwanted by Western United, the unheralded striker scored four goals in the opening seven rounds.
His Luna Park smile lit up every time he pierced the back of the net.
However, the goals have since dried up and that smile has been replaced by a furrowed brow.
Coach Craig Deans believes Yuel's battle - and that of his team - has been mental more than anything else.
The Jets take on league leaders Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Thursday night.
The last goal Yuel scored was the winner in a 1-0 win over City at McDonald Jones Stadium on February 7 and Deans hopes that might provide the lift the wiry attacker needs.
"Goal-scorers are confidence players and sometimes you lose that confidence," Deans said. "You need to find a way to get that back.
"We see it [goal scoring] at training all the time. The difference between training and the game is that there is pressure and expectation and people who are trying to stop you scoring. We work with them on the technical aspects of the game.
"We have a lot of players - Val is one, AP is one, even Connor O'Toole, Gus and Luka - who are getting a run of games they haven't really had before.
"Sometimes you get a little stall and it takes mental strength and physical strength to get over that.
"A lot of football, every sport, is a mind game. It is trying to keep everyone's mind in a positive way, especially the attacking players. It's key that they go out feeling confident."
Yuel is part of a rejigged strike force, minus a suspended Roy O'Donovan, who received his fifth card of the season in the 2-0 loss to Western United on Monday night.
Apostolos Stamatelopoulos will lead the line. Jason Hoffman comes in on the right of the front three.
"Firstly, we lose a lot of leadership with Roy out of the team," Deans said.
"Without him, it is an opportunity for all of them to stand up and show what they have got.
"AP (Stamatelopoulos) has been wanting to play as a nine. He has had a couple of chances off the bench, but this is his first start there
"As far as what he brings to the game, he is more of a runner in behind than Roy.
"It is his opportunity to show everyone that he is good enough to play in there and cement his spot."
Captain Nigel Boogaard ihas been named on the bench and is expected to get some game time in his return from a fractured leg.
Lucas Mouragis flew to Melbourne on Wednesday afternoon and is on standby for left back Connor O'Toole (hip flexor).
The defeat to Western United followed back-to-back draws with Perth (1-all) and Macarthur (2-all) and leaves the Jets in last spot on 13 points.
The Jets were bottom of the table when they beat City in round seven.
"We only had a win and a draw at that point of the season," Deans said. "We are not that different from where we were back then. As far as the attitude and the application to games, we are not in too different a position to back then.
"That is why we have some faith that we can get something out of the game.
"From their point of view, they have some very good players. The longer you keep very good players together, the better you get as a team.
"They have shown in the last 10 weeks that they are probably favourites to take out the competition. That's the challenge for us. You should always want to test yourself against the best and this is a good opportunity.
"The message is the same as always. We have to perform at our best if we want to get something out of the game.
"We have said it over and over again. We are very close in every game. It's small margins.
"The other night, again it's 1-0 after 70 minutes and we have a bit of momentum. Then the second goal killed it for us.
"It's being focused for the 95 minutes of a football game and having the desperation we need in either box to win games and get results.
"We started on that path against Perth and Macarthur. He had a hiccup the other night so we want to rectify that and get back to getting positive results."
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