Newcastle Jets were unlucky not to escape with all three points from their encounter with league leaders Sydney FC after holding the A-League champions to a 2-2 draw.

The Jets came into their top of the table clash with realistic expectations with Jets coach Ernie Merrick dealing with an injury ravaged squad.

With injuries to Ronald Vargas, Roy O’Donovan and Nigel Boogaard, the Jets coach was quick to confess what he expected the outcome to be from last night’s encounter.

“With that many inexperienced players in a team against a formidable opponent away from home, I honestly thought we wouldn’t win the game,” Merrick said.

“My attitude was, we’ve lost the game anyway so let’s see if we can score a few goals and make it difficult for them and at the same time learn to play under pressure our game plan and keep on working at it.”

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Unlike other A-League outfits, Newcastle’s game plan posed a real threat to Graham Arnold’s side and Merrick’s tactics almost led to them toppling the Sky Blues’ 24-match unbeaten record at home.

“Their fullbacks get forward and their midfielders come inside and we had planned to negate that and it was very important because they take risks going forward with both fullbacks,” Merrick said.

“We had planned to attack on the flanks very quickly and I thought we were terrific doing that in the first half.”

The Jets game plan worked on this occasion as they managed to nullify Sydney’s attacking threat and cause damage on the counter attack with their incisive transitional play.

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The youthful side executed the game plan to perfection with striker Joe Champness a shining light for the visitors in the attacking third. With O’Donovan in the treatment room, the 20-year-old has made the most of his opportunity in the starting line-up and his goal last night will only strengthen his case to be the first on the team sheet for Merrick’s side.

Having just past the halfway point of the campaign, the Jets coach reflected on his side’s position on the table and what to expect from them ahead of the business end of the season.

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“We’ll be in the finals and what we’ve been aiming to do is just get to our best football in the finals and get our best team out and have a little more depth,” Merrick said.

Newcastle’s performance against Sydney highlighted the Sky Blues’ potential weaknesses and other sides should take note if they want to reduce the gap between them and the runaway league leaders.

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Studying Journalism at UTS. Obsessed with football and a die hard supporter of Sydney FC and Liverpool FC in the EPL