A couple of weeks ago it appeared the battle for the top six was over but someone forgot to tell the Newcastle Jets.
Ernie Merrick’s men are on a four-game unbeaten run to edge back within five points of the finals places.
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Though that gap could have been even smaller had they taken maximum points in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Adelaide United, you get the sense the Hunter club are building up a head of steam as we head into the final two months of the regular season.
While the Jets still have little margin for error in coming weeks, they will believe they are building momentum at the right time of the campaign.
Here, we assess what’s ahead for the Jets to push for the top six, while also taking a look at the race for the Premiership.
No slip-ups allowed for the Jets
The seventh-placed Jets are currently on 23 points, five behind Wellington Phoenix (28) in sixth, and a further one back from fifth-placed Melbourne City (29).
While well within striking distance of those above them, they can’t afford to let too many more points slip as they did against the Reds.
March looms as the ‘Mega Month’ for Merrick’s men, with three games that could define their season.
The Jets have a tricky – but not impossible – away clash against champions Melbourne Victory in Geelong this weekend, before a full two weeks (courtesy of a Split Round) to prepare for the F3 Derby against the lowly Mariners on March 16.
If they can take maximum points from that game, it will set up a huge clash against the Phoenix in Wellington at the end of the month which could define their season.
Sky Blues the big winners
After dropping five points in two weeks against the Hyundai A-League’s two basement clubs, Sydney FC seemed to have missed their chance to fight for a third straight Premiers’ Plate.
But that was before what unfolded in a dramatic Round 20.
Sydney FC got back on track with their hard-fought 1-0 ‘away’ win over the Phoenix in Campbelltown on Saturday afternoon, where the result certainly outweighed the performance.
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Steve Corica’s men were then able to sit back for the rest of the weekend and watch as both leaders Perth Glory and champions Melbourne Victory dropped points in 1-1 draws against the Wanderers and City respectively.
The results have seen the Sky Blues leapfrog Victory into second spot and close within eight points of Glory at the top.
While they still need results to go their way over the next seven games, Sydney FC still have home matches against both Victory (Round 24) and Glory (Round 26) which could prove pivotal.
Perth eyeing high five for glory
Even after Sunday’s late surrender against the Wanderers, Glory still appear odds on to lift their first piece of Hyundai A-League silverware by winning the Premiership.
Tony Popovic’s troops have opened-up their healthy eight-point buffer at the top thanks largely to their current club-record 11-game unbeaten run.
But there’s still work to be done before Glory can start popping the champagne corks of success.
Back-to-back away games against top-four chasing Melbourne City and Adelaide United will be no easy task, while the home clash against Victory on March 30 is already being circled on the calendar.
If Perth’s current eight-point gap remains after those matches, the earliest chance they will have to lift the Premiers’ Plate will come in Round 25 at home against the Newcastle Jets.
But if they stumble prior to that, they could be forced to get the job done in the penultimate game of the regular season in an away clash at the SCG against fellow title rivals Sydney FC.