NPL: Dousing the Phoenix flames


Undefeated in their opening two, the young Jets will look to continue their strong start to the NPL Northern NSW season against Valentine on Saturday.

The boys started their season with a big 3-1 win over Charlestown, before bookending the scoring in a 2-2 draw with Edgeworth last weekend.

It’s only early days but the ladder currently has the Jets sitting fifth, level on points with the Eagles in fourth but fewer goals scored.

NPL: All square with the Eagles

When the goals do come though, they’re coming from everywhere for the Jets. Their five goals so far this season have come from five different scorers.

Given this fixture is the first of Round 4 in the NPL Northern NSW, a win could see the Jets move temporarily into first place on the ladder – and stay there if results elsewhere fall their way.

Jack Simmons

Their opponents, Valentine Phoenix, won’t have played a match of competitive football in almost three weeks by the time they take the pitch on Saturday.

Adamstown were their last opponents back in Round 1, with the Phoenix winning out 2-1 on Saturday 9 March.

Team news

Angus Thurgate didn’t feature in last Saturday’s draw with Edgeworth as the Hyundai A-League squad was given a weekend’s rest due to the international break.  

It looks like he’ll miss out once again this weekend against Valentine, with Ernie Merrick naming the attacking midfielder in his 18-man squad to take on Wellington on Saturday afternoon.

In his place against Edgeworth was Jack Simmons, recently returned from Australia U/17’s commitments in Turkey and he looked sharp in the centre of the park.

At the top end at the weekend, Matthew Barkho scored his first goal in Jets colours while Joey O’Connor made the most of a promotion to the starting XI with a spectacular goal to level the scores.

Given the positive performances these past two weeks, Labi Haliti may be hesitant to mix up the starting XI but he could be forced into a change after Kieran Hayes was taken off early with injury against Edgeworth.

From the coach

“The first game against Charlesotwn, they’re one of the bigger clubs and to come away with a deserved victory was great… then, getting a 2-2 draw against Edgeworth was a great start,” assistant coach, Lawrie McKinna said.

“The encouraging thing for myself, Labi [Haliti] and [Glen] Mossy was when we went down 2-1 [against Edgeworth], last year we’d have buckled. We hung in there, came back into the game, scored a fortunate goal and could have won it with the last kick of the ball.

“To be going into Valentine this weekend is a good opportunity for the boys to step up… we’ll not have Angus again this weekend, but Jack Simmons came in last week and made the team of the week with Noah James.

“He [Simmons] fired, [Maki] Petratos is doing well, Joey O’Connor did well last week, we’ve got a lot of movement and a lot of potential goalscorers. It’s a big challenge for us this weekend.

“We go to Valentine’s new set-up and it’s fantastic, it’s quite a heavy pitch and we’ve had a bit of rain so I’m expecting it to be heavy. When we play, we must do what we’ve been doing at training and we’re confident that our set-up will be able to match Valentine.

“We just need to stick at what we’re good at, using our pace and moving the ball quickly. Taking your chances is crucial at NPL level, and we create enough.”

Valentine Phoenix v Newcastle Jets
Saturday 30 March, 2.30pm at CB Complex