Jets set for sudden-death thriller

The Newcastle Jets have arrived in New Zealand physically fit and full of confidence heading into Sunday’s sudden-death Semi-Final against Wellington Phoenix at a sold-out Westpac Stadium.

The Newcastle Jets have arrived in New Zealand physically fit and full of confidence heading into Sunday-s sudden-death Semi-Final against Wellington Phoenix at a sold-out Westpac Stadium.

After defeating glamour club Gold Coast United a fortnight ago in a dramatic penalty shootout, the Jets will once again head into the Finals clash as the underdogs, with 34,500 fans inside the ‘Cake Tin- all hopeful of a Wellington win.

For the Hunter-based club, though, it-s been business as usual, and yesterday the squad trained at the scenic Newtown Park in their first full session on Kiwi soil since touching down late Thursday evening. With one more session planned for this afternoon at Westpac Stadium prior to playing in front of a full house, Head Coach Branko Culina believes that having a few days to adjust to the surroundings could make all the difference come kick-off time.

“I think it will give everyone the opportunity to acclimatise to the conditions, the time difference and so forth. The club-s been good enough to give us that opportunity so it-s up to us now to make sure that we take full advantage of that,” explained the coach.

During their stay in the New Zealand capital, the Jets have tried to remain low-key in spite of the buzz surrounding tomorrow-s do-or-die fixture, with the sold-out match being the talk of the town amongst football and non-football followers alike.

“It-s exciting for Wellington, it-s exciting for football in New Zealand,” Culina said of the enthusiasm encompassing the match.

“I can-t believe there-s so much hype wherever you go. I think it-s a bit akin to what Australia went through back in 2005 when we qualified (for the FIFA World Cup), everyone wanted to be part of the football family and with the World Cup only months away I think New Zealand is really taking full advantage of that.”

“Let-s hope they don-t get too excited tomorrow against us, but it-s good to see for football in this country.”

For the Jets- preparations, despite players such as Jobe Wheelhouse (groin) and Ben Kennedy (knee) carrying slight knocks into the match, there is no doubt the Novocastrians will be up for the contest as the team attempts to qualify for a remarkable third Preliminary Final in five years of the Hyundai A-League.

“We would love to rest these guys but if we don-t get through there-s nothing to rest for, until August of this year for next season,” said Culina.

“So we-ll take a punt with them, and look, we-ve gone through this all year and we-ve lost players to long-term injuries. It started off with young Shaun Ontong, then our Marquee Player (Fabio Vignaroli), then our key striker (Michael Bridges) and then our goalkeeper (Neil Young). So we-ve promoted young Mirjan Pavlovic from the youth team and given some of the fringe players the opportunity.”

“Irrespective of the result tomorrow, I think the people of Newcastle, and people generally in Australia, should be very proud of what Newcastle has done considering what we-ve had to go through.”

“I-m very, very proud of the players and what they-ve achieved under difficult conditions,” he said.

Match Details: Sunday, 7 March 2010 Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets Westpac Stadium, Wellington Local kick-off: 4pm (2pm AEDT) Referee: Chris Beath

Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 2/2 HD and Sky Sport 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington). Tickets: SOLD OUT

Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 15. Eugene DADI, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Costa BARBAROUSES, 40. Liam REDDY (gk) *two to be omitted*

In: DIEGO (promoted), Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted), Michael FERRANTE (promoted)

Out: Jon McKAIN (suspended - 1 week)

Unavailable: Mark PASTON (gk) (leg - season)

Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 15. Sean ROONEY, 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 25. Labinot HALITI, 26. Ali ABBAS, 29. Mirjan PAVLOVIC, 30. Dion SHAW (gk) *one to be omitted*

In: Ben KANTAROVSKI (returns from injury)

Out: Nil

Unavailable: Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite), Michael BRIDGES (Quadriceps - 4 weeks), Fabio VIGNAROLI (knee - indefinite), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite), Neil YOUNG (gk) (face - indefinite)