Culina: Finals hopes still alive

Head Coach Branko Culina has faith in side heading into the all-important final four matches of the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season.

It-s all to play for as the Jets travel to Melbourne this week.

With just four matches remaining in the Hyundai A-League season for the 2007/08 Champions, this Wednesday-s clash against the in-form Victory could prove decisive.

Though Newcastle will have to do without the services of the suspended Ryan Griffiths, who picked up a straight red card in the narrow 1-0 loss to Wellington at the weekend.

The visitors will be boosted by the form of New Zealand international Jeremy Brockie in his first start since breaking his foot in October. The 23-year-old created a number of opportunities last Sunday, and will no doubt be hoping to make the most of any similar chances at AAMI Park.

Marko Jesic also came close to earning the Jets what would have been a crucial point at the ‘Cake Tin- as he went within inches of scoring a second-half equaliser from all of 30-yards.

The seemingly goal-bound efforts were enough to instill confidence in Branko Culina as his charges move toward the finals, particularly on the evidence of the side-s gritty performance prior to Griffiths- send-off.

“If we had got something out of the game it would have made it difficult for Wellington, but I still think it will go down to the last game,” Culina said during Sunday-s post-match press conference.

“I’ve said all along that 40 points will be enough to make the finals.”

“We’re about nine shy so we’re a fair way off but mathematically it’s still possible if we keep playing the way we did today and we’re competing.”

“We won’t give in,” he said. “I saw a lot of positives today and we’ve got two games at home and one away in addition to the Melbourne game.”

“If we keep playing like that we’ll make it difficult for the opposition.”

Coming into the squad for the midweek Melbourne match will be China international Zhang Shuo, who scored his first goal for the club against the Gold Coast just over a week ago.

National Youth League left-back Mario Simic will also travel with the squad in preparations for the big game.

The Victory, meanwhile, are riding high after going unbeaten in their past four outings to cement a finals berth of their own.

Danny Allsopp inspired the side to a 2-0 win over fourth-placed Gold Coast last Sunday, and Melbourne-s strike-force is set to be further strengthened on Wednesday by the return of Robbie Kruse from international duties with the Socceroos at the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar.

With 31 points to their name heading into the closing weeks of the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season, the Jets will be hoping to get something out of this match before returning home to take on Sydney FC (6 Feb) and Perth Glory (10 Feb).