FLYING HIGH-FIVES: Newcastle celebrate after Jeremy Brockie opened the scoring against Melbourne Heart on Saturday.A
Nanjing Night Net

re you one of those people who makes lists of things to do, and takes comfort and pride in ticking them off as you go? Well I’m definitely not 95per cent of the time, but I will make an exception.

This week toilet paper is a must, as is a heartfelt IOU for a Valentine’s present (these monthly pays are killing me). And the Jets have one more box to tick for me – a good result on a long-haul road trip. That may be a crucial psychological boost come finals time.

In recent weeks the team have shown they have the discipline to carve out a result against the odds – and the flow of the game – in Brisbane.

The Jets showed their ability to control a game tactically and to convert dominance into goals clinically against Sydney, and won convincingly a brief battle of wills against struggling Melbourne Heart on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday’s clash was a strange sort of game. The Heart used a strong but fleeting southerly wind to pressure the Jets early, but did little with the ball after they forced turnovers.

As a result the Jets were far from the fluid force that dismantled Sydney on February 5 with precision passing and switches of play.

That all changed as the wind abated, and Tarek Elrich wriggled himself a yard of space to cross to find in-form Jeremy Brockie, who cleverly angled his header home.

Melbourne Heart’s stocks dropped as quickly as Greece’s international credit rating, and the Jets were suddenly 10foot tall and bulletproof.

In the next five minutes, Francis Jeffers found room to receive a neat pass from Jacob Pepper, turned and controlled in one motion, and narrowly missed the bottom corner he would hit eight times out of 10.

Clint Bolton then produced a top-class save to deny Elrich after Jeffers and an advanced Tiago Calvano had brokered the chance for the Newcastle winger.

The game may well have been dead and buried at that point, and it effectively was two minutes after the half-time break, when Ryan Griffiths headed Newcastle’s second goal from a free kick and kept alive the battle with Brockie to be the Jets’ leading scorer.

From that moment there was only ever going to be one result.

The Heart were very disappointing, the Jets pleasingly kept their foot on their opponents’ throats, and Michael Bridges appeared for his regular effective cameo and topped off the afternoon with his first goal in 18 injury-affected months.

Sometimes it is difficult to gauge a performance when the opposition are below par.

Were the Heart, missing several key regulars, short on competitive grunt, or did the Jets impose their will on their opponents?

Young fullbacks Craig Goodwin and Michael Marrone were stung by heavy tackles from Griffiths and Brockie in the first five minutes.

The Jets refused to allow the Heart to play from one side to the other across the back line, forcing centre-backs down narrow channels and into making decisions in congested areas.

Eli Babalj, possibly the best young striker in the country, received very limited service but got no change from Newcastle’s central defensive pairing of Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Tiago Calvano and was withdrawn before the hour mark.

Whatever your take on the performance, it was crucial for the Jets to back up two victories on the road with a home win, and it was equally important to win a game you are expected to.


hich brings us to this week, the long trip to Perth, the chance to tick that final box, and the chance to match wills with ‘‘a real team of men’’, as Jets coach Gary Van Egmond described the Glory early last November.

The Glory will be smarting from their loss to Sydney on Sunday – their first in nine games.

They will return to nib Stadium looking to produce the kind of form with which they demolished Gold Coast and Melbourne Victory in their two most recent home outings.

Regular readers of this column need wait no longer.

You knew it was coming, number two of the allotted 47 uses: ‘‘The result of this game will have a massive bearing on semi-final positions.’’

‘‘Thanks Einstein,’’ I can hear you saying, and you are right.

With six rounds left to play and competition for semi-final places so close, you can repeat that for a host of games.

Perth, who have four of their last six games at home, are well-placed but a loss to the Jets would jeopardise a top four spot and a home semi-final.

The Jets have an even run in – three home games, three away – but have a genuine sniff of a top-four position and will be desperate to maintain momentum.

Wellington, who were flying a fortnight ago, face the Mariners away this weekend, minus Andrew Durante, Tim Brown and possibly Ben Sigmund. Only two of their last six games are at home. One against the Gold Coast should produce three points, and their last-round match against the Mariners might bring a depleted opponent, given the scenario that the minor premiership is secured and the hectic schedule necessitates rest and rotation for Graham Arnold’s men.

Melbourne Heart have enough talent due to return to the team and a good run of home games to come, but they must take three points on Friday night at home to the Gold Coast to regain confidence.

Melbourne Victory have tough away games against Brisbane on Saturday, and Sydney and Perth in their run home.

They face the Jets at home on March 3 and I think are a touch-and-go proposition for the finals, despite their impressive individual firepower.

We will know much more about the prospects of Adelaide and Sydney after their clash on Sunday. If the Reds don’t get three points, I think their season will be gone.

Sydney need three points. Their run home is difficult without being totally scary.

Their last home game is the final-round clash against the Jets, and you can sense already the stakes in that fixture will be important for both camps.

An exciting six weeks is in prospect and I’m sure A-League fans will be treated to some thrilling football.

If I may, I’d like to give a rap to some of the players who shone in last weekend’s round of the A-League.

Take a bow Thomas Rogic, Carlos Hernandez, Harry Kewell, Besart Berisha, Mitch Nichols, Brett Emerton and Jeremy Brockie. Your goals would have lit up any stadium in the world.

They are a great endorsement for our league.

May it continue in spades over the mouth-watering remaining six rounds of matches we have to enjoy and endure. Loving it!