It’s the time of year when clubs look towards the home stretch of the season and The Football Sack critiques each club’s progress so far.

Do you agree with our assessments made in the return of our January report cards?

Semester Summary: Continuity has paid off for the second placed Jets with Craig Deans’ side looking perfectly placed for a finals finish in his third season in charge. Deans has brought together a lethal mix of promising youngsters, Matildas regulars and American imports who have gelled well to become a thoroughly entertaining side.

The Jets boast the best scoring record in the league with 20 but also have the third most goals conceded with 15. They are also unbeaten since round four, a run which includes a comprehensive 3-0 away victory over current table-toppers Brisbane Roar. Keeping that consistency from this point is key to consolidate their place in the finals before shifting concentration to push for a first championship.

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Areas of excellence: Newcastle’s attacking force is undoubtedly the side’s most lethal outlet. American loanees Katie Stengel and Arin Gilliland have combined for just over half their season’s tally with 11 and sit third and fifth respectively on the league goalscoring charts. Given their inability to hold the ball for long periods this Jets side is built for counter-attacking and this is an avenue they exploit on a regular basis.

They also find themselves scoring a number of goals from set pieces due in-part to the tall timber of Stengel up front but mostly by players being in the right place at the right time. Emily van Egmond’s vision and experience sitting behind the front three has also been a major factor to Newcastle’s attacking potency after contributing three assists and two goals of her own.

Areas in need of improvement: As mentioned above the Jets tend to struggle to hold onto the ball and is shown in their less than impressive technical statistics. The second placed side have the league’s worst pass accuracy with under 65% of their passes finding their target. That’s a whopping 15% worse than Melbourne City which could prove fatal come finals time. This undoubtedly has contributed to the Jets not once recording a majority of possession in a game this season.

The inability to keep the ball away from their opponent has put added strain on their defence which on paper looks a solid unit, but in reality has shipped the third most goals in the league with 15. It’s a statistic that looks slightly less shocking when considering a third of those were conceded in a 5-2 hammering away to Melbourne City. Nevertheless it’s an aspect Deans will want to keep tight in order to make it across the line in their remaining three games.

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Top student: Arin Gilliland has played every minute of Newcastle’s season thus far and has proved herself useful all over the park covering wing-back, centre-mid and winger roles throughout their ten games.

The American has scored on average more than a goal every two games which has her sitting equal fifth on the scoring charts. In her second season with the club she has made herself a vital part of Deans’ plans. Her goal output and general work rate all over the park has been and will continue to be a major contributing factor in securing Newcastle a place in the finals.

Class clown: It’s extremely difficult and perhaps unfair to find anyone in this Jets side who have under-performed enough to warrant this label. So rather than do that, let’s take this segment literally and look at a player who seems to be a joker on and off the pitch and that is Katie Stengel.

You’ll almost always find her interacting with fans post-match on Twitter and her levels of banter on the platform really are something to behold – definitely worth checking out. For a little taste, here’s her dressed up as a frightening cross between a Christmas tree and the Grinch. Keep it up Katie, never change.

Grade: A

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Outlook: Newcastle must be wary of sliding down the table while keeping performance standards high is vital with just four points the difference between them and fifth place. Perth Glory and Canberra United have showed just how tight it is at the top after sliding down the table recently. Complacency is the only thing that will kill the Jets at this stage after working so hard to put themselves in the competitive position they find themselves in.

Gema Simon linking up with the side is a huge boost especially after scoring a vital equaliser against Sydney FC in just her second game back. With all their big guns firing the Jets should cruise into the finals and there’s certainly no reason they can’t go all the way.

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Living and studying in Newcastle. Pretty obsessed with football. Newcastle Jets and Chelsea FC fan