Preview: Taking on the Wanderers

It’s a return to McDonald Jones Stadium for Ernie Merrick and his Jets following the FIFA international break and a trip across the ditch.

They’ll welcome Western Sydney to the Hunter, as the 8th placed Wanderers look to continue their late-season resurgence.

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The Jets boss admitted that featuring in finals was a bridge to far, but starting a winning run on Saturday – along with some favourable results – and the unlikely could become possible.

Despite the disappointment of a season that could have been, there’s plenty to play for as the Jets look to finish strongly in 2018/19.

Ernie Merrick
Merrick will turn to his younger brigade for the run home

Merrick has indicated that he’ll be looking to the future over the next month, with a raft of talented youngsters in the frame for senior game time.

“The focus is, we’ve got four games to play, we’ll be looking at some youngsters,” Merrick said.

“We’ve got 17 players signed, out of those 17 the average age is pretty young, and up-and-coming.

The experienced Scotsman indicated that Joe Champness, fresh from Olyroos duty was staking a strong claim for a spot in the XI.

“Joey Champness is definitely pushing for a starting spot,” Merrick added.

Angus Thurgate
Angus Thurgate is staking his claim for a starting spot

“To miss him for 14 weeks, I think he got five goals last year and that was mainly off the bench. He’s pushing for a starting spot, and so is Gus [Thurgate].

“Angus has been going really well, Jack Simmons is a very talented under 17 international and he’s got a big future ahead of him as well.”

The Jets have enjoyed some strong outings over Marcus Babbel’s side this campaign, running out winners in their previous three encounters – starting with a 4-0 rout during pre-season and more recently, a 5-1 win in torrential conditions at ANZ Stadium.

Speaking with media on Friday, Roy O’Donovan said there was no room for complacency ahead of Saturday’s clash.

Roy O'Donovan
Roy O'Donovan expects a tough encounter with Western Sydney

“We’ve got to be upbeat and positive this weekend,” O’Donovan said.

“It’s a good game for us in front of our home fans and they deserve to see us play our best stuff.

“Western Sydney Wanderers are confident. They’re winning games, they’ll come up here with a bit of confidence and swagger, and we have to match that.”