Friday, January 26, 2007


Sydney v. Newcastle: A Preview

For the second year in succession, the Newcastle Jets feature in the minor semi-final. However, this is a very different Newcastle side from the one that surrendered limply to the Mariners in 2005/06.

They go into the tie on the back of a 4-0 thrashing of the premiers, in which Mark Bridge and Nick Carle were magnificent, and Tim Brown proved an able replacement for Paul Kohler in midfield.

Gary van Egmond is unlikely to change his formation. As for his personnel, it’s possible that Andrew Durante will be restored to defence, but given Paul Okon’s confident display against Melbourne, it would be hard to drop the club captain. Restore Jade North to the right, then? Difficult to justify, with Steve Eagleton in such excellent form.

A dilemma for van Egmond, but not a particularly unpleasant one.

Sydney FC, on the other hand, have perhaps their key midfielder suspended, and Alvin Ceccoli still on the treatment table.

Terry Butcher’s unexpected switch to 3-5-2 against Queensland did the trick in the end, but Sydney were often badly exposed on the left side of defence, particularly in the first half. With Newcastle, unlike Queensland, fielding a true right-winger in Joel Griffiths, it’s hard to see Butcher repeating the experiment.

This leaves Nikolai Topor-Stanley on the left of a back four to face Griffiths, and a difficult assignment it is for a player as essentially one-paced as “the Hyphen”. Robbie Middleby will have to work hard to limit the upfield excursions of the quick Eagleton, who often provides such vital support to Griffiths.

As for Sydney’s midfield, will Terry McFlynn, buoyed by the faith the club has shown in him, be asked to hold the fort on his own in the centre? A fine tackler he may be, but his passing game often disappoints, and rapid turnover of possession is not advisable against a side as fluent as Newcastle.

A more likely scenario, in my view, is the addition of Mark Milligan to the midfield alongside McFlynn. A second body in central midfield would allow McFlynn to dog the steps of Nick Carle again, as he did so effectively in the previous game between the two sides. Iain Fyfe had an outstanding game in central defence against Queensland, and he is likely to stay there, with Ruben Zadkovich continuing in his newfound role of right-back.

This would leave room for only one striker, of course. That is, unless Butcher were to take the unprecedented step of dropping either Carney or Corica, both of whom have been regulars since returning to the starting eleven against Adelaide in Round 13.

Brosque alone up front again? It’s not a particularly edifying prospect, but given that such a formation proved ultimately successful against Newcastle on New Year’s Day, I think it might end up being Butcher’s choice.

The pitch is likely to be uneven once more, thanks to some egg-ball exertions yesterday evening, but it's hard to see this favouring Sydney as it arguably did at Energy Australia Stadium a month ago.

It will be an intriguing contest. I’m picking a 1-1 draw.

Mike, I saw snippets of the rah-rah trial match on fox sports news last night and you'll be pleased to know the pitch looked in decent nick. The young fly-half Beale ran away for a 50 metre match winner, running towards the Cove, and the surface looked like it was holding up well.

From the brief glimpses I caught, I also didn't see any ground advertising, another good sign.

As I'd said over at Hamish's site, there just seems to be this reluctance from Sydney to go for a second when they are 1 up. Instead, Butcher seems content to sit on a 1-0 lead, always dangerous in my mind. They were punished by Newcastle earlier in the year for adpoting these tactics and again by Queensland last week. Having said that, I enjoyed the way Sydney knocked it around in the first period last week, but Talay was a vital part of that process, so how much will they miss him?

Agree McFlynn is limited in his passing. Will be interested to see the way Butcher goes, as Sydney looked far more in-synch with two up front last week and Zdrilic did get some mileage (and bustled his way to a goal) out of the Newcastle defence in their first meeting this year.

Like you, I've also tipped a 1-1 over Hamish's site, and can't wait for the game, hoping it's a cracker. Will be sitting just above the Cove, in bay 24, hoping for a wonderful contest.
...Will be sitting just above the Cove, in bay 24, hoping for a wonderful contest....

Great, would love to meet up. I'm in Bay 35 for this one. You've got mail (on the gmail address).
Mike, thanks for letting me know about the email you sent, and great to catch up at the game yday.

As I commented on my site, hope you enjoyed. I reckon Sydney are just in the box seat with the runs on the board, but they do like to do things the hard way. Once again they gave up a position of strength, but at least this time they were able to maintain a lead.

There may well be some truth to this notion that Sydney mightn't be as fit as they should be. Too often they have wilted in the final 15-30mins.

But they're still in the box seat, especially if they can get a goal. As I've noted over in my analysis of the game over at my site, FC haven't conceded 2 goals in a game for 13 games now, since their 2-1 loss at home to MV in Oct. Remarkable strength at the back.

So they know if they can get one, they have a good chance of defending it, and defences often win championships.
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