Injury-hit Jets braced for Sydney struggle

Dec 29, 2017 - 4:31 PM Newcastle's A-League bubble burst at the hands of Melbourne Victory on Friday night, and coach Ernie Merrick has warned that worse could be yet to come.

The Jets were denied a fourth-straight win at AAMI Park, where they were outplayed in a 2-1 loss to in-form Victory.

A testing run could now ensue that ends their golden start.

Newcastle next face league leaders Sydney FC and are likely to be fielding their youngest team of the season.

With Roy O'Donovan, Ronald Vargas and Daniel Georgievski already on the sidelines, Merrick said he didn't know if he could field a senior side against the Sky Blues.

"We're not giving it away. I'm just going to be very light on in numbers," he said.

"Nigel (Boogard) might have concussion. He got elbowed in the beginning of the second half and was seeing double for a long time.

"Ben Kantarovski, I'm not sure if he's going to come back with his back injury for next week.

"(John) Koutroumbis has a groin concern and Ivan Vujica got his fifth yellow (and will be suspended).

"I don't even know if we can put a team out because we lose Nick Cowburn and Riley McGree to the under-23s."

Merrick produced a bit of gallows humour ahead of the top-of-the-table affair, saying "it's going to be tough ... we can only probably win 1-0, 2-0, 3-0."

Merrick saw the loss at his old stomping ground of AAMI Park coming, saying his side had "over-achieved for a while now."

Newcastle's points haul has been built on beating the teams they ought to, with no record of achievement against the best sides in the league.

The Jets have three losses and one win - a 4-1 trouncing of 10-man Melbourne Victory in November - in four clashes with top-four sides.

In contrast, they have seven wins from nine meetings with the A-League's current bottom six.

Merrick conceded "Victory were the better team" on Friday night, but said his young players will have taken plenty out of the contest.

"I don't think there was any doubt over who was going to win the game in the second half," he said.

"If you expect more from a team like that ... you're expecting too much and it becomes negative.

"I was pretty proud of the way they worked right until the end."

Source: AAP

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