If Steven Ugarkovic can celebrate his 100th game with a goal, the Newcastle Jets midfielder admits the feeling will be priceless.
Ugarkovic is set to make a century of Hyundai A-League appearance for Ernie Merrick’s side on Sunday against Melbourne City at McDonald Jones Stadium, and it would take a brave person to bet against him playing.
The 25-year-old fitness machine has played in 99 out of a possible 100 matches – missing one through suspension – and he prides himself on doing everything right to keep his body in pristine condition.
Ugarkovic will be the first to tell you that one area where improvements in his game are needed are in the goals and assists column. His last strike arrived almost two years ago in a 4-0 win against Western Sydney in December 2017.
Newcastle Jets fell to a 2-1 defeat against Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium last week, after recording a staggering 25 shots in the first 60 minutes.
Ugarkovic lashed an effort against the underside of the Reds’ crossbar in a goalless first-half as an inspired Paul Izzo performance kept the Jets frustrated.
“I think personally I can’t buy a goal at the moment,” Ugarkovic said.
“I’m just going so close, a half a centimetre and that goes in.
“The boys created so much in the front third.
“Fitzy [Nick Fitzpatrick], Dimi [Petratos], Hoff [Jason Hoffman], Gus [Angus Thurgate], there was plenty of chances in there.
“Once that one goes in I think they will start flowing. We have just got to keep creating those chances and it’s going to come.”
The Jets sit in eighth place on a congested Hyundai A-League ladder, but are fourth when the competition is ranked by total shots on target, despite having played a game or two fewer than every other team, aside from Central Coast.
However, Merrick’s men are joint bottom when it comes to shot conversion, making only 9% of their attempts count in the goals column.
As a box-to-box midfielder, that responsibility does not entirely fall on Ugarkovic’s head. But as the Jets centurion reflects on the past 100 games and look forward to the next 100, he is determined to make a bigger contribution to the goal-scoring charts.
“I think adding more goals to my game can take it to the next level,” said Ugarkovic.
“I’m working week-in, week-out, in training, after training. Just getting in the right head space to be in that position.
“Get forward a bit more and take my chances.
“Build consistency on the field and perform at a higher level, week-in, week-out, and add those extra stats to the game, the goals, assists, things like that.
“I want to be a winner, and win as many games as I can. If we can get into a Grand Final again - and win it - that would be a dream come true for me.
“To get back into the Final - that experience was unbelievable - so [I just want] to be a winner.”
Sunday’s opponents Melbourne City are aiming to bounce back from a 3-0 hammering at the hands of Premiers Perth Glory on their own soil last week.
The Hyundai A-League’s second placed side slipped five points behind Sydney FC following the loss, but attacker Craig Noone insists his teammates are not getting distracted by the ladder.
“The league is what we’re trying to concentrate on, but we’re not exactly focused on staying at the top of the league,” Noone said.
“We’re just concentrating on ourselves. We’ve been top for a number of weeks, and now Sydney obviously went top.
“That’s going to happen throughout the season but we’ll just concentrate on ourselves until it gets down to the business end of the season.”