Sheppard's timely Jets strike fulfils prophetic Merrick prediction
Ernie Merrick sagely invested faith where others might have doubted whether Newcastle boasted the firepower to overcome Brisbane Roar on Sunday.
"I think this team will score goals," the Jets boss assured ahead of Round 7, which his team entered as the competition's second-lowest scorers.
"It helps that we've got a couple of games at home and it helps that we have a couple of strikers - Jair, Kane Sheppard - back again."
His comments proved prescient as the two new signings, both of whom missed last weekend's loss at Melbourne City, notched their maiden Hyundai A-League goals in a crucial 2-0 victory.
The result lifted Newcastle into the top six and, importantly, it will renew confidence in the Hunter that this team is capable of picking up more precious points prior to the end of Roy O'Donovan's lengthy suspension.
Sheppard's first-half opener was particularly apt in that context.
Having toyed with Jason Hoffman as a makeshift centre-forward to mixed results, Merrick finally handed his off-season recruit a starting debut and was not disappointed.
The ex-Avondale forward demonstrated the movement that made him a hit in the FFA Cup, putting space on Avram Papadopoulos with a darting run to the near post and turning a tidy first-time finish past Jamie Young from Daniel Georgievski's delivery.
"Kaine has settled in quickly, didn't give the ball away much, and was in a goalscoring area when he needed to be," Merrick said afterwards, his striker having laid down a marker ahead of O'Donovan's return next month.
Jair later broke his own duck to cap off a lively performance in which he dovetailed to fine effect with Ronny Vargas and Dimitri Petratos.
Consider that beaten Brisbane have produced the second-fewest shots on target this season despite topping the possession count in six of seven matches and the value of varied scoring options like Sheppard and Jair becomes all the more obvious.