Preview: Jets tackle Phoenix in Auckland


After a week off courtesy of the Hyundai A-League’s split round, the Newcastle Jets will travel across the Tasman to tackle the Wellington Phoenix in Round 23.

The fixture – to be played at QBE Stadium, North Harbour – offers some exciting news for Jets fans, as Ronald Vargas and Pato Rodriguez make their return to the match day squad.

The inclusion of the club’s South American contingent represents a major boost for Ernie Merrick’s men, as they deal with the loss of Andrew Nabbout (released), Roy O’Donovan (suspension) and Nigel Boogaard (injury).

It’s expected that Lachlan Jackson will partner Topor-Stanley in central defence, while Joe Champness will fill O’Donovan’s shoes at the point of attack.

Jets’ boss, Ernie Merrick confirmed Vargas would return via the bench, as Rodriguez pushed for a starting berth.

“Ronny could play anywhere up to a half, so he’ll be on the bench – he’ll definitely get game time,” Merrick said.

“The way Pato is playing he’s certainly pushing for a starting position, I haven’t decided on that just yet, but he’s been looking really good over the past fortnight – his recovery progressed much quicker than we expected.”

Merrick was wary of a Phoenix side full of youth and running as interim-coach, Chris Greenacre offers game time to some of his young chargers.

“They’ll be up for it, they’re playing for pride over the next month and they’ve got plenty of talent to get a couple of positive results,” added Merrick.

“That day (Round 17) they got the better of us, took their chances and got the win – I certainly know what they’re capable of and we have to be ready.”

Mario Shabow and Angus Thurgate will also join the bench, while Nikolai Topor-Stanley will take the captain’s armband in the absence of Boogaard.

The match will be the last for Dimi Petratos before he joins the Socceroos squad for international friendlies in Norway and London, with the in-form midfielder missing the Jets Round 24 clash with Adelaide.

By the numbers:

  • Newcastle have blasted 36 shots on target from outside the box this campaign, more than any other team.
  • Dimi Petratos (3) is the only player this campaign to have created three or more scoring chances per game this season.

Saturday 17 March 2018

Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets

QBE Stadium, North Harbour

Kick-Off: 7:35 PM (Local) (5:35 PM AEDT)

Referee: Shaun Evans

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 501 from 5pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 4 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: ABC News on Radio, Grandstand Digital, Online & via the ABC Listen App – A-League Live.

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #WELvNEW

Newcastle Jets squad: 1.Jack DUNCAN (gk), 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 7.Dimitri PETRATOS, 8.Ronald VARGAS, 10.Wayne BROWN, 11.Patricio RODRIGUEZ, 12.Mario SHABOW, 16.Nick COWBURN, 17.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 24.Joseph CHAMPNESS, 27.Riley MCGREE, 32.Angus THURGATE, 44.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (c)

**one to be omitted**

Ins: 8.Ronald VARGAS (return from injury), 11.Patricio RODRIGUEZ (return from injury), 12.Mario SHABOW (promoted), 32.Angus THURGATE (promoted)

Outs: 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (knee – 8 weeks), 13.Ivan VUJICA (omitted), 15.Andrew NABBOUT (released)

Unavailable: 9.Roy O’DONOVAN (suspension)

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 3.Scott GALLOWAY, 4.Goran PARACKI, 6.Dylan FOX, 7.Nathan BURNS, 8.Matija LJUJIC, 9.Andrija KALUDJEROVIC, 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY, 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 14.Alex RUFER, 18.Sarpreet SINGH, 19.Tom DOYLE, 21. Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 24.Logan ROGERSON, 26.Liberato CACACE, 40.Tando VELAPHI (gk)

**two to be omitted**

Ins: 9. Andrija KALUDJEROVIC (promoted), 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: 2. Daniel MULLEN (knee – end of season), 5. Ryan LOWRY (quad – end of season)